Swansea City and Brentford will lock horns in the first-leg of the EFL Championship Playoff semi-finals at the Liberty Stadium on Sunday.

Swansea City will play hosts to fellow promotion hopefuls Brentford to the Liberty Stadium this weekend as the two teams square off in the first leg of their EFL Championship Playoff semi-finals.

Swansea grabbed a playoff spot in the table in the most dramatic fashion on the final day of the regular season. The Welsh outfit were seventh heading into the last day with sixth-placed Nottingham Forest needing just a point to retain their position. However, the Reds suffered a 4-1 defeat to Stoke City, while Swansea won by the same margin against Reading to eke ahead on goal difference.

Brentford, on the other hand, could have avoided the playoffs entirely and earned automatic promotion after second-placed West Bromwich Albion dropped points against QPR. However, a shock 2-1 defeat to Barnsley on the last day meant that the Bees finished third and will now have to do it all over again in the playoffs to make their way into the English top flight.

Brentford have had Swansea’s number this season, beating the Welsh outfit in both their league games with an aggregate scoreline of 6-1. And ahead of their latest meeting in a crucial semi-finals encounter, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both the teams.

Team News & Tactics

Swansea City

Freddie Woodman is ruled out with an injury (Picture Courtesy - AFP/Getty Images)

Freddie Woodman is ruled out with an injury (Picture Courtesy – AFP/Getty Images)

Swansea manager Steve Cooper has a number of injury concerns heading into the crunch tie against Brentford. The hosts will be without Freddie Woodman and George Byers, while both Mike van der Hoorn and Wayne Routledge, who was the hero of the win against Reading, are injury doubts as well after coming off injured in the last game.

Kyle Naughton will be serving out the final of his three-match suspension, while Joe Rodon and Ben Wilmot are the long-term absentees for the Swans. Cooper is unlikely to change the 3-4-1-2 formation that has worked well for the team so far. Erwin Mulder should start in goal though, in Woodman’s injury-enforced absence.

Ben Cabango and Marc Guehi are certain starters in the three-man backline. The third slot could occupied by van der Hoorn, even if he is not fully fit, given the importance of the contest. Connor Roberts and Jake Bidwell ought to be the two wing-backs on the right and left sides respectively.

The two-man midfield pivot will see captain Matt Grimes line up alongside Jay Fulton, while the creative responsibilities will fall onto the shoulder of on-loan Chelsea midfielder Conor Gallagher.

Routledge’s injury in the last game means, he will not be able to force his way into the starting XI, with Andre Ayew and on-loan Liverpool youngster Rhian Brewster set to feature as the two forwards for the Swans.

Probable Lineup (3-4-1-2): Mulder; Guehi, van der Hoorn, Cabango; Roberts, Grimes, Fulton, Bidwell; Gallagher; Ayew, Brewster

Brentford

Unlike his counterpart, Brentford manager Thomas Frank has just the one player missing out due to injury, as forward Nikos Karelis struggles with a long-term knee issue. Apart from him, the Bees boss has a fully-fit squad to choose from ahead of the trip to Wales.

Despite the disappointing results in the last two matches, Frank is unlikely to make a whole lot of changes to the side on Sunday. The visitors will line up in a 4-3-3 formation against Swansea with David Raya Martin manning the goal.

Former Leeds United man Pontus Jansson should continue to pair up with Ethan Pinnock at the heart of the Bees’ backline. Henrik Dalsgaard and Rico Henry ought to be the two full-backs on the right and left sides respectively.

Josh Dasilva, who scored the Bees’ only goal of the game against Burnley, should hold on to his place as the holding midfielder. He will be supported by Christian Norgaard, while the third midfield slot should be occupied by Emiliano Marcondes, who will be given the license to push forward and support the team in the attacking phases.

Bryan Mbeumo should get the nod on the right wing, while Said Benrahma, who has been brilliant this season, should continue on the left flank. Ollie Watkins, who has netted 25 goals in the Championship this term, is the obvious choice to lead the line for Brentford.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Martin; Dalsgaard, Jansson, Pinnock, Henry; Norgaard, Dasilva, Marcondes; Mbeumo, Watkins, Benrahma

Key Stats

  • Swansea City have a slight upper-hand when it comes to head-to-head record against Brentford, having beaten them on 33 occasions, while the Bees have come out on top 31 times (D22).
  • Brentford have won just two of their last eleven meetings against Swansea City in all competitions (D1 L8). Both of those victories came in the 2019/20 campaign in the Championship.
  • Of their last ten home games in the Championship, Swansea City have picked up five victories in total (D2 L3).
  • Brentford come into the playoff semi-finals on the back of consecutive defeats against Stoke City and Barnsley. Prior to that, the Bees were on an eight-game winning run dating back to March.
  • With 25 goals from 46 Championship matches, Brentford striker Ollie Watkins is the second-highest goalscorer in the competition, only behind Fulham’s Aleksandar Mitrovic (26).

Player to Watch

Said Benrahma

Arguably the best player in the EFL Championship this season, Brentford winger Said Benrahma has set the stage on fire with some sensational displays, spearheading the Bees’ promotion push from the front. In 43 league appearances, the Algerian international has scored 17 goals and assisted 9 more.

Rated the best player in the EFL Championship by WhoScored, the 24-year-old winger is attracting serious interest from Premier League giants Chelsea and Arsenal. Having had a spectacular campaign, he will want to lead his team all the way to promotion, starting off with a match-winning display against Swansea this weekend.

Prediction

Swansea City 1-2 Brentford

Swansea City played out of their skins to secure a huge win against Reading, which coupled with Nottingham Forest’s downfall earned them a top-six finish. However, they will be going up against a Brentford side that will be extra-motivated to set things right after faltering in the final phase of the campaign.

The Bees have defeated the Swans convincingly in both their meetings this term. And given the form that the likes of Ollie Watkins and Said Benrahma are in, along with the injury problems troubling the hosts, The Hard Tackle predicts Thomas Frank & co. to come away with a crucial victory in the first leg of the Playoff semi-finals.

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