Beesotted contributor Paul Harrison rounds up the week’s key stories and talking points ahead of the Championship run-in.
Next Stop – Derby
With just four games left of the regular season, this weekend in particular looks crucial in determining who finishes where. Particularly at the top – as every team in the top ten face off against one another.
Brentford remain in 3rd and are still five points behind the top two. The Bees travel to Derby (9th), whose play-off charge has stuttered a tad. Having won their previous five league games prior to last weekend, the Rams could only draw at home to Nottingham Forest, before losing to West Brom on Wednesday evening.
Derby have had a few players serving suspensions recently. Winger Tom Lawrence is eligible to return for Saturday after a 3-match ban, but striker Martyn Waghorn remains suspended.
Young starlet Louie Sibley was sent off in the dying moments of their West Brom defeat which would have seen him suspended for the Brentford game. But the original decision has been overturned on appeal and he is free to be chosen on Saturday if needed.
Duane Holmes looks likely to be sidelined through injury. Ex-Bee Florian Jozefzoon is likely to replace him in the starting XI.
Derby are still only three points off the play-off spots as things stand. With a tough run-in including fixtures against Leeds and rivals Cardiff, they will likely be on the offensive on Saturday in the search for a win.
The Rams have only lost twice in their last 31 home matches, so this is far from an easy task for Brentford.
The Bees realistically need to win their final four to stand a chance at automatic promotion.
Lisa Howard from Derby County FAN TV spoke on the Beesotted Pre-Match podcast (link below) and feels that Derby have a great future with a number of exciting prospects coming through their academy. But feels it may be a task too much and inexperience will show – with many of them expected to be in the team for the Brentford game.
Kick off is Saturday at 12.30pm. The match is live on Sky Sports.
On the Beesotted pre-match podcast the predictions made by FiveThirtyEight for the final Championship table were also discussed. The statisticians are predicting Leeds will finish top on 90 points, with West Brom 2nd on 87 and Brentford 3rd on 83.
That suggests that if West Brom perform as predicted, Brentford will need to win all four of their remaining games to stand any chance of automatic promotion.
Doing that would also get the Bees to 87 points with Brentford’s superior goal difference securing them a top two place.
Weekend Championship Preview
Leeds (1st) travel to Swansea (7th)
Leeds are coming off the back of a resounding 5-0 win over Stoke. They remain six points above Brentford – a win on Sunday would put them in an enviable position. But Swansea are just a single point outside the play-offs and have won their last two.
Their style of football has proved tricky for Leeds in the past – the Swans won the reverse fixture at Elland Road back in August.
West Brom (2nd) go to Blackburn (10th)
The Baggies have won their last three and need a minimum of eight points from their next four matches to secure automatic promotion.
Brentford will be looking to Blackburn to do the Bees a favour. Rovers’ form has been patchy post-lockdown, but they came from behind to beat Cardiff 3-2 in midweek.
Fulham (4th) host Cardiff (6th)
The Cottagers are just two points behind Brentford and have won all three games in which star striker Aleksandar Mitrovic was suspended, including a 1-0 win away to Forest on Tuesday.
Cardiff are currently holding down the final play-off spot. But the aforementioned defeat to Blackburn has put the pressure on them going into a tricky run-in.
Preston (8th) face Forest (5th)
Defeat to Fulham has made automatic promotion impossible for Forest, but they should comfortably secure a play-off position.
Preston have looked a shadow of their pre-lockdown form, but a 3-1 win at Sheffield Wednesday in the week has reignited their fading play-off ambitions. They are only three points behind Cardiff as things stand and could sneak back into the top 6 if results go their way this weekend.
The weekend’s other fixtures are:
Huddersfield (19th) v Luton (24th)
Charlton (20th) v Reading (13th)
Hull (22nd) v Millwall (11th)
Middlesbrough (18th) v Bristol City (12th)
QPR (14th) v Sheffield Wednesday (16th)
Barnsley (23rd) v Wigan (15th)
Stoke (21st) v Birmingham (17th)
Manager Of The Month
Having won all three matches in June, Thomas Frank was named as the Sky Bet Championship Manager of the Month. This is, for obvious reasons, the first time this honour has ever been awarded in the month of June.
Thomas credited his staff and players, saying:
“I am delighted to be named Manager of the Month, but this is not an award for me, it is an award for every member of staff and every player at Brentford.
“Throughout the lockdown period, and since we’ve been back at Jersey Road, everyone has been working so hard to get us into the best possible shape.
“This a reward for all that work with another, bigger, reward hopefully ahead in the coming weeks.”
— Brentford FC (@BrentfordFC) July 10, 2020
Some rival fans are trying to insinuate a link between managers who win the award but then lose their next match. However the club ethos and togetherness at Brentford, as evidenced in Frank’s official Manager of the Month photo (above), is working wonders to handle the burden.
Rumour has it that Frank has also partially credited his success to a certain whiteboard …
Stoke v Brentford On Sky TV
Brentford’s away match to Stoke has been chosen for broadcast on Sky Sports.
The match will kick off at 12.30pm on Saturday 18th June and will be broadcast on Sky Sports main channel and Sky Sports football.
Prior to that, Brentford’s penultimate home match of the season – to Preston – on Wednesday 15th July has also been chosen for broadcast on Sky Sports. Kick off time 5pm
With one team expected to win promotion to the Premier League next weekend, if second place still hasn’t been decided before the final weekend then then Brentford’s final game of the season – at home to Barnsley on Wednesday 22nd July – is very likely to be on Sky Sports too.
Brentford Owner’s Danish Club Midtjylland Crowned Champions
FC Midtjylland, who are owned by Brentford owner Matthew Benham, were this week crowned champions of Denmark’s top division – the Superliga.
3rd championship in 6 seasons, congratulations to Brian and everyone 😎😎 https://t.co/agqgbfoF59
— matthew benham (@matthew_benham) July 9, 2020
The club have enjoyed a remarkable rise since Benham took over in 2014 – this recent triumph being their third league win in just six seasons under his ownership as he steered them from near bankruptcy to the Champions League.
Midtjylland have been spurred on by the goals of ex-Brentford fans favourite Lasse Vibe throughout this season. But they didn’t need his goals to beat their closest challengers FC Copenhagen on Thursday, securing the title with four games to spare.