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Everton vs Rotherham United: The Opposition View | Millers struggling

We spoke with Millers podcaster Matt Lax prior to Saturday’s FA Cup clash at Goodison Park

Everton v Rotherham United - Carabao Cup Second Round
Everton beat Rotherham 3-1 in the EFL Cup in their previous meeting in August 2018
Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Everton get their 2020-21 FA Cup campaign underway when they host Rotherham United in the third round on Saturday.

The Blues have exited the competition at this stage in three of the last four years, and have not made it past the fourth round since 2016.

But they will surely fancy their chances against the Millers, not only through their own good form but given that Rotherham sit second-bottom of the Championship.

Paul Warne’s men last visited Goodison Park in August 2018, when they lost an EFL Cup second round tie 3-1 to Marco Silva’s side.

Ahead of Saturday’s game, we chatted with Matt Lax from The Rotherham United Podcast:

RBM: Firstly, Rotherham won promotion to the Championship for the third time in six years last season. What have you made of their return to the second tier so far?

Matt: A decent start and then we dropped off a little. Three of our last four games have been postponed due to COVID and snow, so our position of 23rd is probably slightly false as we have three games in hand to most.

But we will have to work hard to get the points on the board.

Rotherham United v Sheffield Wednesday - Sky Bet Championship
Rotherham won promotion via points-per-game after League One was curtailed last season
Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images

RBM: Having been manager since November 2016, Paul Warne has led Rotherham to two of those promotions. How well has he done in his first job in management?

Matt: I suspect this could be his only job in management; he’s almost said as much.

He is from East Anglia but is Rotherham through and through. He has changed the culture at the club; whether it’s the players or staff, it is about getting better, bit by bit. We are a different club from when he started the job and we are much better for it.

RBM: Rotherham have played the fewest Championship games this season due to COVID-19 and weather conditions. With just one match in the last three weeks, how tough has this period been for the club?

Matt: It has been a little bit of a blessing in disguise. We have four or five long-term injuries with three or four due back by the end of January, so playing those games could have been very difficult for us.

We were forced to play against Barnsley [2-1 defeat] by the EFL during our COVID crisis and we struggled for numbers, so we were quite pleased the following game [versus Cardiff] was called off due to snow.

Rotherham United v Barnsley - Sky Bet Championship
Rotherham’s only match in the last three weeks was a 2-1 home defeat to Barnsley on December 29
Photo by Charlotte Tattersall/Getty Images

RBM: Given they’re playing catch-up and look set for a fight for survival, do you think this game has become a low priority for Rotherham this season?

Matt: It is a very low priority for us. Like most, I love the FA Cup and would love a cup run, which we have not been able to have for a long time (we last reached round four in 2002 and round five in 1968).

We would be happy with a win, but would not be that disappointed with a fighting loss.

RBM: How would you describe Rotherham’s style of play under Warne?

Matt: A mix; we can play some decent stuff when we need to and can press very high at times.

But we are not afraid to go direct; Michael Smith, on his day, is unplayable in the Championship up front. With several injuries still, it is difficult to say how we will set up.

Blackpool v Rotherham United - Sky Bet League One - Bloomfield Road
Warne made more than 250 Rotherham appearances in his playing career
Photo by Nigel French/PA Images via Getty Images

RBM: Which areas of the pitch do you think Everton should look to exploit?

Matt: We are having to play one of our best young central midfielders [Ben Wiles] at left-wing-back at the moment where he has done OK, but it is not his natural position. That could be an area of weakness.

RBM: How do you expect Rotherham to set up on Saturday?

Matt: Probably 3-5-2. We are still short on defenders - no natural left-wing-back and only three fit centre-backs (maybe a fourth if we are lucky).

We are not sure what state those who had COVID are in, so it’s difficult to say who we will play in midfield.

Coventry City v Rotherham United - Sky Bet Championship
Ben Wiles has deputised at left-wing-back lately for Rotherham
Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images

RBM: How do you think Rotherham can cause Everton the most problems?

Matt: Looking at your EFL Cup run, I expect a strong Everton team that will likely cause us massive problems.

I expect our only chance is to keep it as close as possible and exploit a set-piece or maybe a counter-attack.

RBM: Finally, what’s your prediction for Saturday’s game?

Matt: I’m not positive; I would say it will likely be an Everton win to nil. Probably 2-0.

Our thanks to Matt for his time.