Survival at stake, the toughness of opponents Middlesbrough and the return of old boys Dan Barlaser and Matt Crooks ... today is a big Championship day for Rotherham United

The crucial AESSEAL New York Stadium encounter kicks off at 1pm.
Dan Barlaser in action for the Millers earlier this seasonDan Barlaser in action for the Millers earlier this season
Dan Barlaser in action for the Millers earlier this season

ROTHERHAM United must get a result against one of the most potent teams in the Championship to avoid their fight for survival going down to the final day of the campaign.

The Millers, who are a single place and two points clear of the drop zone, face high-flying Middlesbrough today in clash that kicks off at 1pm at AESSEAL New York Stadium.

A draw would virtually guarantee their safety for the first time in four attempts while a win certainly would as it would leave third-bottom Reading with no chance of overhauling them.

However, Rotherham could hardly be facing tougher opposition as Boro have scored more times (83) in the second tier this season than any side other than champions Burnley (84) and have already sealed their play-off spot.

"Middlesbrough are a fluid team who play through the middle of the pitch," said Millers manager Taylor said. "Their goal record tells you everything about them. We will have to be at our best to get something out of the game."

A defeat would leave Rotherham's safety still at stake when they head to relegated Wigan Athletic to complete their Championship programme a week today.

This afternoon's contest sees old boy Dan Barlaser return to his former stamping ground for the first time since his near-£1-milllion move to Teesside in January.

The midfielder, a huge fans' favourite during his three-and-a-half-year spell at New York, has been used mainly as a substitute by his new employers but may make their starting line-up for the third time.

"I am sure he will want to be involved," Taylor said. "It's great to see him at a club which is doing so well.  We have missed him here. I am sure he will get a warm welcome from the fans. I hope he does anyway."

Another midfielder with a Millers past, Matt Crooks, is also expected to be in the matchday 18 for the visitors who, with the play-offs looming later this month, may take the chance to rest some of their key men.

Rotherham's squad had Friday off following their late 2-1 home loss to Cardiff City at New York on Thursday night and then trained at the stadium on Saturday and yesterday.

"We allowed them to grieve a little bit on Friday," Taylor said. "It was important they felt a little bit down and grumpy. But when we started our match prep on Saturday it was important there was a bit more brightness about us."

The Millers are two points better off than Reading and their goal difference is superior by eight. That means a draw today would leave them all but mathematically safe as the Royals have only one match - at Huddersfield Town - left to play.

Along with Wigan, Blackpool are also down.