A place in the Championship playoff final will be up for grabs at Griffin Park, where Brentford will take on Swansea City on Wednesday.
The elongated 2019/20 season is reaching its end at long last, at least in England. While the FA Cup final is scheduled to happen in the coming weekend, the curtains will fall on the Championship too, with the playoffs ending in a week’s time. The first of the semi-final second leg ties will be played on Wednesday, when Brentford play hosts to Swansea City at Griffin Park.
Brentford have been one of the most improved teams in the Championship this season, going from 11th last term to nearly claiming an automatic qualification spot in the ongoing campaign. But, in recent weeks, the Bees have been on a free fall, losing each of their last three games, including the first leg against Swansea.
Swansea, like Brentford, have made good progress this term, although their growth has been a little less steep. Nevertheless, after a decent end to their league campaign, wherein they went three games without a defeat, the Swans are now just one step away from booking a place in the playoff final.
The first leg, played at the Liberty Stadium last week, ended in a 1-0 win for Swansea, courtesy a second half goal by Andre Ayew. Brentford, though, had been victorious in the two matches against the Swans in the Championship. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
The big talking point ahead for Thomas Frank ahead of the visit of Swansea City on Wednesday was the decision on Rico Henry. The 23-year-old was sent off midway through the second half in the first leg for a challenge on Connor Roberts. Brentford subsequently appealed against the decision and have successfully had the red card rescinded.
Therefore, Henry, who has played every single Championship game for Brentford this season, ought to keep his place in the starting lineup, and will line up as the left-back. On the opposite flank, Henrik Dalsgaard is a certain starter. The duo will flank Pontus Jansson and Ethan Pinnock, with David Raya Martin starting between the sticks again.
Up ahead in midfield, Josh Dasilva will have the onus on him to keep things tight and negate the influence of Conor Gallagher. Dasilva will receive defensive support from Christian Norgaard and Emiliano Marcondes. The latter, though, will be tasked with providing the creative impetus from the middle of the park.
Finally, in attack, Ollie Watkins and Said Benrahma will be the two key players. The duo are the two top scorers for Brentford this season and will once again have a lot riding on them. Benrahma will also be the creative spark in the final third, while Bryan Mbuemo will look to make things happen on the right wing.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Martin; Dalsgaard, Jansson, Pinnock, Henry; Norgaard, Dasilva, Marcondes; Mbeumo, Watkins, Benrahma
Unlike his counterpart in the Brentford dugout, Steve Cooper has a fair few players unavailable ahead of the trip to Griffin Park. On Wednesday, the Swansea City manager will be without five first-team players due to various injury troubles.
The likes of Freddie Woodman, Wayne Routledge, Ben Wilmot, Joe Rodon and George Byers all remain on the sidelines. However, there is some good news, as Kyle Naughton is available once again after serving his three-match suspension. Naughton, though, is unlikely to start, with Connor Roberts expected to continue as the right wing-back.
On the left flank, Jake Bidwell is likely to keep his place. In the three-man central defensive unit, there is very little scope for rotation, meaning Mike van der Hoorn, Ben Cabango and Chelsea loanee Marc Guehi should be a part of the back-three, which will provide cover to Erwin Mulder.
As for midfield, Bidwell and Roberts should be flanking Matt Grimes and Jay Fulton, with the two midfielders looking to facilitate quick transitions in order to heap the pressure on Brentford. The onus, though, will be on Conor Gallagher to provide the creative burst for the two strikers, Andre Ayew and Rhian Brewster.
Probable Lineup (3-4-1-2): Mulder; Guehi, van der Hoorn, Cabango; Roberts, Grimes, Fulton, Bidwell; Gallagher; Ayew, Brewster
- Brentford have lost three of their last four games against Swansea City at Griffin Park (W1), including a play-off semi-final second leg in 2006 when both sides were in League One. However, they did win 3-1 at home earlier this season against the Swans.
- Swansea are winless in their last four trips to the capital in all competitions (D1 L3), most recently a 1-1 draw with Millwall in June.
- Brentford have lost just two of their last 16 Championship home games (W12 D2), conceding a mere three goals in their last six games at Griffin Park. Meanwhile, Swansea have only kept one clean sheet in their last 10 Championship away games, however they have only failed to score in two of those trips on the road.
- Brentford are without a win in their last 11 Football League play-off games (D3 L8), last winning in May 2002 against Huddersfield in the third tier semi-final second leg.
- No player has scored more home goals in the Championship this season than Brentford star Ollie Watkins (14, also Aleksandar Mitrovic). On the other hand, Rhian Brewster has eight goals in his 11 appearances on the road for Swansea this season, including each of the last three.
Player to Watch
Brentford’s rise from a mid-table side to competing for a place in the Premier League has been quite the story in itself. However, one man has aided their cause more than any other. Said Benrahma has been on a tear this term, with a superb record of 17 goals and 9 assists in 44 outings for the Bees. His form has also put him on the radar of Chelsea, among others.
In fact, during the 2019/20 Championship campaign, Benrahma was involved in 291 open play sequences that ended in a shot – 46 more than any other player in the division. If Brentford are to make it past Swansea and into the playoff final, the Algerian winger needs to step up, helping them arresting their slide in the process as well.
Brentford 1-1 Swansea City
This is a fixture that is quite tricky to predict. Brentford have been quite strong at home this season. However, the Bees have been slipping in the last few weeks and have lost each of their last three games. And so, Swansea should fancy their chances of progressing to the playoff final, despite having an iffy away record.
A rampant Said Benrahma could probably make the difference for Brentford. However, the Bees’ recent form could rear its ugly head, allowing Swansea to topple them towards the end of the game. The Hard Tackle, therefore, predicts a keenly contested affair, with the game ending in a 1-1 draw. Swansea, thus, progress to the final, while it becomes the case of so near, yet so far for Brentford.