The fixtures are coming thick and fast in the Sky Bet Championship as Neil Harris' men look to lift The Lions' spirits against Nottingham Forest at the City Ground this Wednesday night (kick-off 7.45pm).
Aitor Karanka’s side sit 11th in the League going into the game, having only lost one match in 10 this season but playing out six draws. Millwall will be searching for an upturn in results following an agonising defeat at The Den against Sheffield United in their last outing.
Nottingham Forest have been in their current spell in The Championship since 2008, having ended a three-year spell in League One. Despite not featuring in the top flight since relegation from the Premier League in 1999, Forest boast a phenomenal history, peaking historically under Brian Clough in the late 1970s.
Under Clough’s reign, the club won the English League title in their first season after promotion from the Second Division, and proceeded to then lift their two European Cup trophies in successive seasons in 1979 and 1980, as well as the UEFA Super Cup. Altogether, Forest have accumulated one First Division title, three in the Second Division, two FA Cups, four League Cups, two European Cups, one Super Cup and one Intercontinental Cup among other honours.
More recently, Forest’s 11 successive years in The Championship have seen them manage two Play-Off finishes, but the club have struggled to build substantial bids to return to the highest level in the last few years.
Ones to Watch
Adlene Guedioura (5) was one of a host of players brought into the club by Aitor Karanka last January as he looked to put a strong impact on the squad in his first transfer window. The midfielder has played in England since 2010 when he made the move from Belgian club Charleroi to Wolverhampton Wanderers of the Premier League. A loan spell at Forest in the 2012/13 season became permanent, and the Algerian went on to play for Crystal Palace and Watford. Karanka brought Guedioura to Middlesbrough in January 2017 before leaving the club, and managed to lure the player for a second time to the City Ground. A robust central player with a knack for scoring memorable goals, the 32-year-old currently has 40 Algeria caps, and featured in England’s group at the World Cup in 2010.
Matty Cash (14) has shown real promise in the last few months for Forest, scoring two goals and claiming three assists in 14 midfield starts at the age of 20 last season. Now 21, Cash has scored four in all competitions already this campaign, and has made a significant impression on fans of Forest and beyond. The young maestro operates in midfield and contributes regularly to the attacking options, favouring the right-hand side of the pitch. An all-round style of player, Cash also assists well without the ball in defensive areas, and is expected to continue playing a key role in Karanka’s side this campaign. On the books of Wycombe Wanderers as a teenager, Cash signed for Forest in 2014 and made his senior professional debut on loan at Dagenham & Redbridge in 2016.
Joe Lolley (23) is another exciting, forward-thinking player in Karanka’s side. Direct on the ball and always willing to take players on, Lolley impressed fans across all levels of the League pyramid with eye-catching performances for Kidderminster Harriers, Scunthorpe United and then Huddersfield Town in a four-year spell between 2014 and 2018. The 26-year-old signed a long-term deal with Forest as another of Karanka’s January signings to transform the squad, and has scored twice this season in all competitions. Making a route into football through non-league, midfielder and attacker Lolley started out with Midland League club Littleton, where he scored nearly 100 goals in just two years, alerting the attention of numerous professional clubs. He has also represented the England ‘C’ side.
Lewis Grabban (7) has had an established career in the game, netting over 100 goals collectively for the likes of Millwall, Bournemouth and Norwich City. The striker made his senior debut aged 17 for Crystal Palace, for whom he first signed as a professional. Grabban arrived at The Den in 2008, and was part of Kenny Jackett’s promotion-winning side two years later. He departed the club in 2011 having scored 11 goals for The Lions, playing for Brentford and then Rotherham United. Grabban later won two promotions to the Premier League with Bournemouth and Norwich, for whom he boasted a regular scoring record. After short but personally successful loans with Reading, Sunderland and Aston Villa, Grabban signed a long-term contract with Karanka’s side and has notched four goals so far this season.
In the Dugout
Aitor Karanka has earned admirers in the English game over recent years for his relative success with Middlesbrough, securing Boro’s return to the Premier League in 2016 following three individual Manager of the Year honours in 2015. Karanka arrived at the City Ground in early January, recruiting no less than 11 players in the same month as he put his spin on the Forest squad. An expert tactician, the Spaniard’s management style reflects his ball-playing defender days in his homeland. Karanka earned a solitary senior cap for Spain in 1995, during which time he was playing in the first of two spells for Athletic Bilbao. The 45-year-old also made just shy of 150 appearances for Real Madrid, and spent three years as one of Jose Mourinho’s assistants at the Bernabeu, learning the management trade.