Brentford FC are eyeing the elusive ticket to the Premier League as they take on Swansea in the Championship promotion play-off final on Saturday.
After dispatching Bournemouth 3-2 on aggregate, Brentford travel to Wembley on Saturday, to face Swansea in the final of the Championship play-off final.
It will be a historic moment for the club, as they have not been in the top-flight since 1947 and have never played in the Premier League. However, it does add pressure on the players as well, especially having lost last season’s play-off final to Fulham. In fact, they have never won in any of their seven major finals in all competitions in their 131-year history.
The Bees, though, looked good in their semi-final affair against Bournemouth, advancing with an aggregate of 3-2, facing a Swansea side who were beaten on a similar aggregate in the semi-final of last season play-off.
The Swans also had a nervy semi-final affair of their own, having managed to somehow hold Barnsley to a 1-1 draw after sealing a 1-0 win in the first-leg. However, they were one of few clubs to hold Brentford twice in the Championship, playing out 1-1 draws in both home and away fixtures.
Brentford, nonetheless, are being tagged as the favourites heading into this affair, despite their head coach Thomas Frank’s best attempts to squash that label. And here, at The Hard Tackle, we will take a look at these two sides ahead of their showpiece event at Wembley this weekend.
Team News & Tactics
🗣 "It is important we do everything to 𝙗𝙚 𝙗𝙧𝙖𝙫𝙚 and make sure we 𝙙𝙤𝙣’𝙩 𝙧𝙚𝙜𝙧𝙚𝙩 𝙖𝙣𝙮𝙩𝙝𝙞𝙣𝙜 when we look back. If we perform well, then we can’t do more"
— Brentford FC (@BrentfordFC) May 28, 2021
Brentford’s attacking football paid off well in the second leg affair against Bournemouth. However, Thomas Frank’s men will be needing some additional firepower upfront, up against a Swansea City side that defends well.
Marcus Forss, in particular, is pushing for a start, after scoring a late goal in the 3-1 win over Bournemouth. Frank, though, might just persist with Bryan Mbeumo alongside Ivan Toney as his preferred offensive partnership.
In midfield, Brentford are sweating over the fitness of Christian Norgaard but it remains unlikely that the 27-year-old will make it in time. It should ideally pave the way for Frank to add more firepower in his attack by deploying Emiliano Marcondes in the attacking midfield role, alongside Mbeumo.
However, it could make the job a bit more difficult for the double-pivot of Vitaly Janelt and Mathias Jensen, as they hope to offer protection for the back-four. They might require additional support from the wing-backs in Mads Rasmussen and Sergi Canos in the second line of press.
Defensively, the three-man backline should remain as it is, with Pontus Jansson marshaling the back alongside Henrik Dalsgaard and Ethan Pinnock, hoping to keep things quiet for goalkeeper David Raya.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Raya; Dalsgaard, Jansson, Pinnock; Rasmussen, Janelt, Jensen, Canos; Marcondes, Mbeumo; Toney
Swansea City face a massive blow heading into this game as veteran forward Wayne Routledge is unavailable due to an injury. It could ensue a selection dilemma for coach Steve Cooper, who might also have to revert back to a 3-5-2 formation that was used against Brentford earlier in the campaign.
We’ll be in our away kit at Wembley tomorrow 🙌 pic.twitter.com/KXOMfWRLwJ
— Swansea City AFC (@SwansOfficial) May 28, 2021
Routledge’s absence should see Andre Ayew spearheading the Swansea attack, alongside another ever-present figure in Jamal Lowe. Cooper, though, does have the option of deploying Liam Cullen, should he opt to persist with the 4-3-3 with Ayew and Lowe operating out wide.
One thing that wouldn’t change, though, is the midfield trifecta of Matt Grimes, Jay Fulton and Conor Hourihane, as Steve Cooper looks to prefer experience, ahead of the youthful exuberance of Yan Dhanda.
Hourihane is expected to operate in the most advanced role of the three, hoping to provide the creative essence in the final third. The onus will be on Fulton and Grimes to screen the back three consisting of Kyle Naughton, Marc Guehi and Ben Cabango.
Naughton is unlikely to be given the license to move forward as he will be supported by a wing-back on the right-hand side in Connor Roberts. The same cannot be said for Jake Bidwell on the opposite flank, who may even join the backline during the defensive phases.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Woodman; Naughton, Guehi, Cabango; Roberts, Grimes, Hourihane, Fulton, Bidwell; Ayew, Lowe
- Both Championship meetings between Brentford and Swansea City in 2020/21 ended 1-1, with the Bees taking the lead in both games. The Swans were the only side the Bees dropped as many as four points from winning positions against in the regular league campaign.
- This is the second consecutive season to see Brentford and Swansea City meet in the Championship play-off, with the London side eliminating the Swans 3-2 on aggregate in last season’s semi-final.
- Brentford – who lost 2-1 to Fulham in last season’s Championship play-off final – are the first team to reach consecutive Championship play-off finals since Aston Villa in 2018 and 2019. The only team to lose consecutive second-tier play-off finals was Leicester City in 1992 and 1993.
- Swansea City are looking to return to the Premier League after their relegation in the 2017-18 season. They won in their only previous Championship play-off final appearance, beating Reading 4-2 in the 2010/11 final under Brendan Rodgers.
- This will be Brentford’s eight major final match in all competitions – they have lost all of their previous seven finals, losing three in the Football League trophy and four in the play-offs.
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 is once again the one worth keeping an eye on, given how important of a role he will play for favourites, Brentford. Having found the back of the net 32 times in 51 competitive matches this season, it is needless to say that the forward, who has attracted the interest of Arsenal, will be the focal point of the Bees’ attack – making him the primary threat for Swansea City.
Toney did score once in the two matches he played against Swansea, but generally tends to struggle against the well-oiled defensive unit of Steve Cooper. The 25-year-old, therefore, will have a point to prove as he looks to help Brentford earn promotion and maybe even seal a move to a top tier Premier League outfit in the summer, following in the footsteps of Ollie Watkins.
Brentford FC 2-1 Swansea City
This is going to be an exciting tactical battle as one side will look to attack while the defence is the strongest asset for the other. The Swans have generally fared well against the Bees in the league. We also expect them to cause a bit of mischief on the counter, especially thanks to the attacking duo of Ayew and Lowe.
However, Brentford are undisputedly the favourites heading into this game. They have quite a strong attack while Thomas Frank’s men have visibly improved defensively as well. The Hard Tackle predicts them to clinch a narrow 2-1 and seal promotion to the Premier League next season.