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Sunderland v Millwall preview: Championship returns at the Stadium of Light

England's second tier makes a return on Saturday afternoon as Sunderland take on Millwall at the Stadium of Light, with four points and nine places separating the two sides in the table.

Sunderland sit 15th in the Championship table right now following a largely inconsistent season under Tony Mowbray, who took over in August from former boss Alex Neil.

Mowbray has implemented some good football, but a young squad are still finding their feet in the second tier, with the Black Cats having escaped League One last season following a four-season stay.

Millwall occupy the final play-off spot after what has been very good season for Gary Rowett's team so far, defying expectations as they continue to go about their business with a small budget.

However, the World Cup break possibly came at the right time as they managed to win only one of their last four games, with two of them goalless draws.

What: Sunderland v Millwall
When: Saturday 3rd December, 12:30
Where: Stadium of Light, Sunderland
How to watch: Sky Sports Football
Odds: Sunderland 6/4, Draw 9/4, Millwall 15/8

Black Cats search for a good run of form

Even though Sunderland were only just promoted last season, fan expectations meant that they had to aim for more than simply surviving in the Championship.

Many had their eyes on the top half and a potential play-off charge, although the early part of the season was pretty tumultuous following the departure of Neil as he decided to up sticks and move to Stoke City.

Mowbray, who left Blackburn Rovers at the end of last season, was brought in as his replacement and left them in 15h place before the World Cup commenced - a respectable position in the table, though one they can certainly improve upon.

Sunderland's problem has been their inability to string a run of results together. They have failed to win back-to-back games all season and that explains why they have dropped slightly in the table.

Therefore, the 2-1 victory away at Birmingham City three weeks ago may be regarded as a bad omen with goals from Ellis Simms and Amad Diallo enough to defeat the Blues.

A draw against the Lions would mean their record reads at seven wins, seven draws, and seven defeats - aptly summing up how their season has gone so far.

The Black Cats have only managed to win one of their last five games at home, and need to start dominating games on their own turf if they are to progress.

Lions proving tough to break down again

Gary Rowett's Millwall have historically been a very difficult team to play against in his three-year stint as manager, and this season they are looking like more of the same.

The Lions lie sixth in the Championship table and, after a poor start in which they picked up only seven points from seven games, they have vastly improved to be in the play-off picture.

In seasons gone by, Millwall have threatened to gate-crash the top six, before ending up running out of steam at the business end of the season, and they will be hoping to avoid the same this time around.

Only three teams in the Championship have a better defensive record, and they have only let seven goals past them in ten games since the start of October.

Their summer signing Zian Flemming has proved to be a very shrewd acquisition too, with the Dutchman beginning to fire in the goals.

Prior to the World Cup he was on a scoring run of seven goals in nine games including a hat-trick away at Preston in his last appearance.

Unlike Sunderland, Millwall do have a goalscorer they can rely upon and the price for Flemming to open the scoring is 15/2.

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Little to separate teams on past record

The only two meetings since 2005 came in the 2017-18 Championship season, when Sunderland and Millwall played out two draws.

The first meeting was a 2-2 draw in the North East where George Saville's double helped secure Millwall a point, before a 1-1 draw was played out in Bermondsey with current defender Shaun Hutchinson cancelling out a strike from Costa Rican defender Bryan Oviedo.

This game was also an FA Cup semi-final as recently as 2004, with Tim Cahill netting the Lions' winner at Old Trafford to tee up a tie with Manchester United.

Sunderland's last victory over Millwall came in October 2004, the year they were promoted as Championship champions under Mick McCarthy, and they are 6/4 to take all three points on Saturday.

Stewart still absent for Sunderland

In terms of team news, Sunderland are still likely to be without main centre-forward Ross Stewart as he continues to battle back from an injury which has kept him out of action since the end of August.

The former Ross County hitman had a really good start to his maiden season in Championship, with five goals in seven games, and will be chomping at the bit to get back action soon.

Defender Dan Ballard is also on the sidelines following a foot injury that has curtailed his early Sunderland career.

Full-back Niall Huggins made his return to action against Birmingham after 14 months injured and may keep his position at left-back.

Millwall could name the same team that beat Preston 4-2 at Deepdale, with no fresh injury concerns for Rowett to worry about.

George Honeyman was brought off early in the second half of that game, but played in a recent friendly match against Brondby and should therefore be available to play.

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