The Championship promotion playoff gets underway on Monday as AFC Bournemouth host Brentford FC in the first leg of the first semi-final.
After missing out narrowly last season, Brentford FC will try their luck once again this season, as they take on AFC Bournemouth in the first leg of the Championship play-off semi-final.
Much like last season, Thomas Frank’s men finished third in the Championship main round, missing out on the direct promotion by four points. They have once again emerged as the best attacking team in the league, scoring 79 goals despite losing out on star players like Ollie Watkins and Said Benrahma last summer.
Bournemouth, on the other hand, were relegated from the Premier League last season. In the Championship, they finished sixth this term, boasting a healthy six-point lead over seventh-placed Reading.
The Cherries have had relative success under caretaker manager Jonathan Woodgate – collecting 38 points from 21 matches since the former Real Madrid player replace Jason Tindall back in February.
Promotion was a priority for these two clubs heading into the campaign, so we could be in for a tightly contested encounter. And here, at the Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over both these sides ahead of this fascinating first-leg affair at Dean Court on Monday.
Tactics & Team News
Woodgate has largely favoured a 4-3-3 since being appointed as the interim head coach for Bournemouth. Former Liverpool starlet Dominic Solanke and winger Arnaut Danjuma have mostly embraced the scoring burden for the club with 15 goals apiece.
Prepped and ready ⚔️ 👽 FINALLY fans back in the stadium tomorrow. Let’s make the most of it 👊🏽 pic.twitter.com/pWbZ7Fg3N5
— Arnaut Danjuma (@Danjuma) May 16, 2021
David Brooks completes the front three for Bournemouth, although Jonathan Woodgate does have Rodrigo Riquelme as a potential alternative in the wide attacking department.
Bournemouth manager will look to unleash a full-strength squad against Brentford on Monday, so Ben Pearson may once again get the nod ahead of another bit-part player in Jack Wilshere.
The 26-year-old should be partnered by Philip Billing and Jefferson Lerma in the middle of the park, with the latter occupying the deepest role in midfield. His combative nature, combined with his aggression could be ideal in screen the backline.
Speaking of which, Woodgate should persist with the stable central defensive duo of Lewis Cook and Cameron Carter-Vickers. The Cherries are unlikely to enjoy much possession, so it will be imperative for them to operate in a compact shape.
It means the two fullbacks in Jack Stacey and Lloyd Kelly could feature closer to the centre-backs, majorly relying on long balls as means of transition from defence to attack.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Begovic; Stacey, Carter-Vickers, Cook, Kelly; Billing, Lerma, Pearson; Brooks, Solanke, Danjuma
It is needless to say that Brentford’s biggest strength is their attack. They embrace the high-risk high reward style of play, with their offensive unit being brilliantly led by top scorer Ivan Toney.
The Bees, though, have recently adopted a 3-5-2 formation that has seen Toney being partnered by Marcus Forss. The move has given Thomas Frank’s men more firepower upfront as well as more assurance in possession.
🗣 Thomas on team selection
— Brentford FC (@BrentfordFC) May 16, 2021
That assurance is mostly provided by the two marauding wingbacks. Although unfortunately, first-team star Henrik Dalsgaard is out injured. Mads Rasmussen has been the preferred deputy for the Danish international at right wingback while Bryan Mbeumo should replace Sergi Canos on the opposite flank.
These wingbacks usually operate in the middle third of the pitch, providing additional passing options for the midfield trifecta of Vitaly Janelt, Mathias Jensen and Tariqe Fosu, with the latter often switching between a number ten and a number eight role.
Defensively, Brentford have the presence of three imposing centre-backs in Christian Norgaard, Pontus Jansson and Ethan Pinnock, as they hope to protect David Raya in goal and keep the likes of Solanke and Danjuma quiet this Monday.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Raya; Norgaard, Jansson, Pinnock; Rasmussen, Janelt, Fosu, Jensen, Mbeumo; Forss, Toney
- Bournemouth lost both of their Championship matches against Brentford this season, with the Bees one of only two teams to complete the league double over the Cherries in 2020/21, along with relegated Sheffield Wednesday.
- In their 1-0 home defeat in Brentford in April, Bournemouth managed just four shots, their fewest in a home league game all season despite playing the last 40 minutes with an extra man after Bees’ Pontus Jansson was sent off.
- This will be Bournemouth’s third Football League play-off campaign, winning the fourth-tier play-off final in the 2002/03 campaign against Lincoln but going out in the semi-finals in the 2010/11 League One play-off against Huddersfield Town on penalties after a 4-4 aggregate draw.
- Brentford are featuring in their 10th attempt at the Football League play-offs, and second in as many seasons in the Championship, with only Preston featuring in as many campaigns (also 10). However, the Bees have never been promoted via the play-offs, with their previous nine attempts the most without winning promotion in the history of the Football League play-offs.
- Bournemouth are only the fifth team since the introduction of the Football League play-offs to go into the playoffs having lost their last three league matches of the season, and the first-ever in the second tier. None of the previous four went on to win promotion, while only Brentford in the 1996/97 campaign, went on to reach the final, losing 1-0 to Crewe Alexandra.
Player to Watch
Ivan Toney, Brentford FC 2020/21
The Brentford striker factory comes up with the goods again
Back-to-back golden boots for Ivan pic.twitter.com/WJ06P79F7e
— StatsBomb (@StatsBomb) May 13, 2021
Ivan Toney has been a revelation at Brentford this season and is the single most lethal player in the Championship at the moment. The forward has netted a total of 31 goals in just 45 league matches – playing a vital role in the club’s success in the league.
The 25-year-old, though, has a point to prove as he has netted only two goals in the last six matches. He also hasn’t found the back of the net in the two games against Bournemouth.
Toney, therefore, is due a big haul on Monday, and it is fair to say that his performance in this game could go a long way in dictating the fortunes of Brentford.
AFC Bournemouth 1-2 Brentford FC
Bournemouth have not performed well at all against Brentford this season and are mere outsiders to advance through to the finals in this playoff semi-final. However, they still pack quite a punch going forward, which could cause problems for the Brentford defence, although the Bees are likely to prevail thanks to their attacking prowess. The Hard Tackle predicts a 2-1 win for the Bees.