Coming up from the Championship via the Play-Offs often sets a team out as arguably the favourite to go straight back down. Brentford, though, have confounded this stereotype so far in mightily impressive fashion. A superbly run club whose Brentford Community Stadium is the perfect metaphor for its owner: modest yet glistening. In a clash of Thomases, the Bees’ boss Thomas Frank welcomes Chelsea counterpart Thomas Tuchel in what promises to be a fascinating tactical tussle. The second international break is over, and it is a case of seventh playing first in the Premier League. It’s Brentford vs Chelsea!
Brentford vs Chelsea: Their First Ever Premier League Clash
Chelsea haven’t played Brentford in the league for 74 years. This is the Bees’ first ever campaign in the Premier League. While the Blues won the last two iterations of this fixture in the FA Cup by 4-0 margins in 2013 and 2017, Brentford will look to humble the European Champions in a bid to secure more points and take a small step closer Premier League football for a second consecutive season.
Brentford Recent League Form – DLWDW
Chelsea Recent League Form – DWWLW
Brentford’s form hasn’t come as a surprise to some who know how efficient they are both on and off the field. Shrewd owner Matthew Benham has transformed the club from top to bottom. A modern ground and an ingenious transfer policy that has seen the likes of Ollie Watkins and Said Benrahma come through the club for low fees and sell on for higher ones, the Bees are a well-oiled machine. Under Frank, their team is just as efficient on the field. A fluid 3-5-2 system that capitalizes on a strong, mobile, and energetic midfield who give a platform to the irrepressible Ivan Toney and his partner Bryan Mbeumo in attack.
It’s not a coincidence that the Bees have lost just once. Having played Arsenal and Liverpool garnering four points from those games, this will clearly not be a straightforward game for Chelsea. Brentford have waited seven decades to play England’s best teams. Their attitude in the league thus far shows they are taking every opportunity to enjoy the journey.
Chelsea, though, are top of the league and look a team that respects every opponent they come up against. Facing opponents like Arsenal, Liverpool, Tottenham, and Manchester City within their first seven fixtures, being number one after such a run suggests a cache of quality and belief in the direction and style of play of the team.
Arguably only Man City completely outplayed Chelsea a few weeks ago. Guardiola’s team are the best pressing side in Europe, so that’s unlikely to worry Tuchel too much. What Chelsea need to do now, as they did against Southampton, is to assert their dominance once again, continuing the momentum built up during the international break.
Brentford vs Chelsea: Team News and Potential Lineups
Going into the game, manager Frank has a few injury concerns. Defender Mads Sorensen will miss out with a knee problem as will Josh Dasilva with a hip complaint. A standout performer this season, Shandon Baptiste, has a shoulder issue and may miss out, which would be a blow to Brentford’s midfield. Vitaly Janelt and Kristoffer Ajer face late fitness tests for the game but as at the time of writing on Friday are doubts for the game.
What will be a fascinating subtext to this game is how Brentford use their three at the back system to exploit Chelsea. In two games in the league this season, at home to Aston Villa and away to Tottenham, the double pivot midfield of Chelsea were overrun by energetic, pressing midfield threes. That is exactly the style of midfield that Brentford possess. What alternative instructions Frank will give to his midfield remain to be seen, but the expectation is ‘more of the same, please.’
Some positive news for Thomas Tuchel this week came in the form of a return to full training for both N’Golo Kanté and Reece James. Kanté recovered from coronavirus and James completed his rehabilitation from the ankle injury he sustained against Manchester City.
Unfortunately, Thiago Silva is a guaranteed absentee given travel issues as his final game for Brazil on international duty ends in the early hours of Friday morning before a Saturday game. Tuchel will be without defensive stalwart Antonio Rudiger who has been unable to shake off a back problem picked up on German national team duty. Christian Pulisic is a continued absence as well. The American picked up an ankle injury in the previous international break which hasn’t healed. Fortunately, Romelu Lukaku is fit for this clash after recovering from muscle fatigue picked up while playing for Belgium.
What will be most interesting about the Blues’ team selection is what front three will take the field. Both Kai Havertz and Hakim Ziyech have been underwhelming recently. Callum Hudson-Odoi looked impressive at left wing against Southampton. Whether he has the trust of Tuchel, though, is another story. Christian Pulisic’s fitness is questionable and thus his regular minutes suffer as a result.
During the international break, Timo Werner was mightily impressive for Germany. His energy, attacking runs that open space and the manner he complements Romelu Lukaku appear to suggest he is currently the best left forward option at Chelsea. The other forward is likely to be Mason Mount whose irrepressible energy, industry and creativity makes him a virtual certainty.
There is every indication that this fixture will be amongst the toughest this season for Chelsea. Brentford have not been overawed by anyone, and Tuchel will need to find a way to lock his midfield down. Too easily overrun by Aston Villa and Tottenham for periods of time, it’s an area of weakness that Brentford can readily exploit.
The European Champions, though, have a supremely talented squad. With so many options in so many positions, it’ll be interesting to see who Tuchel chooses as the Blues continue an assault on the Premier League title.
Written and edited by Dan Hill (@idanknow05)
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