BY RICHARD CAWLEY
The admission from Marcelo Bielsa last weekend that his Leeds United side have a vulnerability to set-pieces will have been music to the ears of Millwall.
The Lions have only netted two goals from open play compared with seven from set pieces. A Jed Wallace penalty rounds off their Championship scoring.
If Leeds are susceptible to deadball deliveries then Millwall have shown in recent years that they have the tools in their locker to exploit that.
Jake Cooper is one of the main aerial threats for the Lions.
The key will be winning free-kicks and corners to ask those kind of questions of Bielsa’s side. So are there any special tactics that can be employed to make sure they can test the visitors’ ability in the air?
“Certainly at The Den we have ways of being able to do it,” said Cooper. “It’s all about being on the front foot and attacking areas. You have to do that first and you create chances from that.
“We firmly believe when we win a set play that it is a goal chance – totally.
“Maybe [what Bielsa said about set-pieces] will force them to work on it a lot coming into the game this weekend.
“I’m sure they will have seen all our threats. It speaks for itself.”
Cooper watched a few episodes of the Leeds documentary Take Us Home but didn’t stick with it.
“I found it a tough watch,” he said. “It wasn’t like the Man City one where you had all the dressing room access. You didn’t get insights like that in the Leeds one.
“It was more about the players’ lives away from football and the matches, and we all knew the results.”
What does Cooper think about doing a Millwall version?
“Why not? Get them in. I’m sure it would be an entertaining watch – to see how we do it. It would be a bit different from most places, I’m sure.”
Although South London derbies are back on the fixture schedule, the matches against Leeds arguably shade Charlton for relevance to Millwall fans.
Cooper says it doesn’t make the Lions change their approach, but he adds: “Without doubt we know it is our biggest tie in the Championship. There is no bigger occasion.
“It seems to be this rivalry – it’s really good between the fans. Whether it is at Elland Road or The Den it has always been an unbelievable atmosphere when I’ve played.
“It’s exciting. If the fans get behind us then I’m sure it can be a great day.”
Millwalll have taken four points from a possible 18 since the 4-0 loss at Fulham on August 21, which ended their unbeaten start to the campaign.
“The Fulham game had a bit more of an effect on us than what we thought,” said Cooper.
“Getting beaten like that wasn’t easy. It shows in the response since then and what we were doing before that. It’s maybe affected us a bit mentally.
“I don’t think there is a better frontline than them [Fulham] in the Championship this season. Swansea and Nottingham Forest look great, so it will be interesting when we come up against them.
“The two at QPR [Nakhi Wells and Jordan Hugill] are both Premier League players. Even Saturday, how many players did Huddersfield have that have played in the Premier League? Then look how many of ours have played Premier League. It’s a massive outweigh.
Wednesday’s 1-1 draw at Luton means it is eight matches since Millwall kept a clean sheet.
Cooper, speaking before the fixture at Kenilworth Road, said: “We need to get back to our solid base and what we did in the first few games of the season. Maybe we’ve gone away from that a bit and tried to change little things. That’s why I think we haven’t probably quite done as well in front of our goal.
“We’ve had personal mistakes as well, which don’t help. We all make them – I certainly have in my career, so I can’t point fingers at that. It happens and you want that to equal itself out and be more solid in front of goal.”
PICTURE BY BRIAN TONKS
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