Verdict: Home win
Best odds: 1/1
This weekend, it’s matchday 27 in the Premier Leauge, though of course, due to numerous postponements for various reasons throughout the campaign, not one of the 20 teams will have 27 matches played by its end on Monday evening, when Brentford host Fulham at the Brentford Community stadium. It’ll be game No. 24 for the hosts, No. 26 for the visitors.
Brentford have established themselves as a regular member of the English top flight since gaining that status in 2021. They’ve proven a tough nut to crack for any team in the league, with the likes of Liverpool, Manchester City and United on their list of victims this term, and even table toppers Arsenal failing to beat them at the Emirates.
Realistically speaking, a place in the middle of the table is probably a fine achievement for the Bees, and that’s about where they are now, sitting in ninth place with 35 points. Being one point ahead of Chelsea, for example, who have spent over £600million on reinforcements in the last two transfer windows, is certainly a respectable position for this team. It doesn’t look as if they’ll be fighting to play in Europe next term, but they surely won’t be fighting for survival either.
Brentford’s recent form has been admirable, with the last six matches they played yielding two triumphs, three draws, and just one defeat which came at the start of the run when they lost 0-1 to West Ham at home in the third round of the FA Cup. After that, they beat Bournemouth at home by 2-0, drew 0-0 away to Leeds, beat Southampton 3-0 at home, drew 1-1 away to Arsenal, and drew 1-1 at home against Crystal Palace.
Goalkeeper Thomas Strakosha remains out with an ankle problem, likely for the rest of March. Midfielder Frank Onyeka and defender Pontus Jansson were injured for a long time, and though they’ve both recovered, it remains to be seen if they’ve gained sufficient levels of match fitness to play on Monday.
David Raya will be in goal. At the back, Aaron Hickey and Rico Henry are expected to flank centre-backs Ethan Pinnock and Ben Mee. Having come off the bench to score against Crystal Palace, Vitaly Janelt could be given a start in midfield, alongside Christian Norgaard and Mathias Jensen. Upfront, Ivan Toney is expected to lead the line, with Bryan Mbeumo and Yoane Wissa on the flanks.
As for Fulham, having just returned to the Premier League, they’ve surpassed all expectations for this point in the season. They’ve completely destroyed the theory that they move between the top two tiers in English football every summer. The chance of that happening now is practically non-existent.
At the moment, they are in seventh place with 39 points, three less than Liverpool in fifth after the Merseysiders demolished Manchester United at Anfield on Sunday, and two less than Newcastle in sixth after their defeat away to Manchester City on Saturday, and they may well be in contention for a place in Europe at the end. Brighton and Hove Albion sit directly behind though, with 38 points and two games in hand.
Yes, Brentford’s recent form has been excellent, but Fulham’s has been even better, with their last-six run in all competitions consisting of four victories and two draws. They played a goalless draw away to Chelsea, beat Sunderland in the fourth round of the FA Cup away by 2-3, beat Nottingham Forest at home by 2-0, beat Brighton away by 0-1, drew 1-1 at home against Wolverhampton Wanderers, and beat Leeds United at home in the fifth FA Cup round by 2-0.
Manager Marco Silva has four players missing from his squad for the Brentford trip. The Cottagers will be without midfielder Palhinha (suspended through yellow card accumulation) and Tom Cairney (ankle injury), as well as defender Laywin Kurzawa and winger Neeskens Kebano (both knee).
With former Arsenal ‘keeper Bernd Leno in goal, Issa Diop should pair up with Tim Ream in the heart of defence, flanked by Tete and Antonee Robinson. In the absence of Palhinha, Sasa Lukic is likely to join Harrison Reed in the middle of the park, while the trio of Bobby Decordova-Reid, Andreas Pereira and former Chelsea and Arsenal winger Willian support striker Aleksandar Mitrovic upfront.
This will be a highly interesting match between two teams who play brave, attacking brand of football against anyone, and they certainly won’t change that against each other. The contest could certainly go either way and a share of the spoils cannot be ruled out either, but the absence of Pahlinha might just swing it for the home side. The 27-year-old Portugal international is a very important player in Silva’s setup, and it remains to be seen whether Lukic, who joined the club from Torino on January 31st, can step into his shoes so quickly.
Verdict: Home win
Best odds: 1/1