Coventry have not been regular opponents for Brentford in recent years – in fact Saturday will only be the fifth meeting between the sides since the mid-1960s.
Because of the Sky Blues’ ground problems in recent years, the Brentford Community Stadium will be the fourth different venue among the five games, with two of the previous ones at Griffin Park and one each at the Ricoh Arena and Sixfields Stadium.
Coventry are back in the Championship for the first time in nine years, after being crowned League One champions in the summer.
They were five points clear at the top of the table when the season was stopped, and were officially handed the title when clubs voted to end the season, with the league table decided on points per game.
City’s previous spell at this level lasted for 11 seasons, after their 34-year stay in the top flight ended with relegation in 2001. At the time, Liverpool, Everton and Arsenal were the only teams in the top division who had been there longer than them.
They only finished in the top half of the Division One then Championship table twice during those 11 years, never looking like winning promotion, before dropping into League One in 2012 and then into League Two five years later.
They bounced straight back from the Football League basement at the first time of asking by winning the play-offs, and then spent only two years in League One.
The Sky Blues have had an identical start to the season to the Bees with one win, one draw and two defeats from their first four games.
They were beaten 2-1 at Bristol City on the opening day of the season, before a televised 3-2 Friday night win over QPR. A goalless draw at Barnsley was followed by a 3-1 defeat by Bournemouth in another Friday night TV match before the international break.
In the Carabao Cup, they won 1-0 at MK Dons in round one, before bowing out 5-4 on penalties at Gillingham in round two after a 1-1 draw.
For the second season in a row, City are playing their home games outside Coventry at Birmingham’s St Andrews.
The Sky Blues left their home of 106 years at Highfield Road in the summer of 2005 to move to the newly-built Ricoh Arena. Various off-the-field disputes led to them having to play the 2013/14 season at Sixfields (as mentioned above) before returning to the Ricoh the following season.
However, they left again last summer and have been playing at Birmingham ever since.
There is light on the horizon though, as in July the club announced a partnership with the University of Warwick, which would see it provide land for City to develop a new stadium.
The exact site still has to be finalised, but the plan is for an environmentally-friendly stadium, with a new light rail station and link road providing access.
WHO’S IN CHARGE
Mark Robins is the fourth longest-serving manager in the Championship, and 12th longest-serving in the country, after taking charge at Coventry for the second time in March 2017 to replace Russell Slade.
His first spell at the club lasted only five months from September 2012, before he moved on to Huddersfield, but during his short stay with the Sky Blues he led them away from relegation danger and also into the area final of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.
He stayed with the Terriers until the summer of 2014, and then took charge of Scunthorpe in October that year, before being sacked in January 2016 and returning to Coventry 14 months later.
Robins has been successful in his second spell, winning the Checkatrade Trophy just after rejoining City and also leading them to two promotions
His playing career as a striker lasted nearly 20 years and took in permanent spells at Manchester United, Norwich, Leicester, Ourense (Spain), Panionios (Greece), Walsall, Rotherham, Sheffield Wednesday and Burton.
Perhaps his most famous goal came for Manchester United in an FA Cup third round tie at Nottingham Forest in January 1990. Robins’ winner was said at the time to have kept Sir Alex Ferguson in his job as manager at Old Trafford after some poor results put him under pressure.
WE’VE MET BEFORE
Our four recent meetings with Coventry all came in League One.
The Sky Blues made their first visit to Griffin Park since October 1963, just over 49 years later on Tuesday 23 October 2012, the day that the BBC’s popular Ceefax service was switched off for the final time.
And they made a superb start, with David McGoldrick putting them ahead in the seventh minute.
We equalised in the 41st minute when Harry Forrester slotted Adam Forshaw’s pass under goalkeeper Joe Murphy.
Forrester hit a dramatic late winner, picking himself up after he had been fouled in the area to beat Murphy from the penalty spot four minutes into stoppage time to seal a 2-1 Bees win.
The Bees were in the thick of the promotion race when the April return at the Ricoh Arena came around, but we had to settle for a 1-1 draw thanks to two goals either side of half-time.
Harry Forrester continued his good form against Coventry, converting a Clayton Donaldson cross in the 47th minute to equalise for the Bees, after we fell behind to Carl Baker’s penalty just before the interval.
The result left us five points behind second-placed Bournemouth in the table, with two games in hand, while Coventry, who had been deducted 10 points for going into administration, remained in 14th.
We did the double over Coventry the following season on our way to promotion.
A goal midway through each half was enough to give us a 2-0 victory on a Sunday afternoon in late September at Sixfields.
Clayton Donaldson capitalised on an error by Cyrus Christie to put us ahead, before on-loan Sheffield Wednesday defender Martin Taylor grabbed his second goal in three games when he headed home a Sam Saunders cross to seal the points.
The win lifted us up to 10th in the table, but left Coventry in 22nd.
We won the March return 3-1 to maintain our hold on second place – one point behind Wolves, but more importantly four points ahead of third-placed Leyton Orient with two games in hand on them.
Callum Wilson gave the visitors an early lead after an error by David Button with his 19th League goal of the season, making him the division’s joint top scorer.
Alan Judge missed a chance to equalise in the 13th minute when Joe Murphy saved his penalty after the midfielder had been fouled, but in an amazing opening Brentford were 2-1 up only seven minutes later.
First Judge made up for his miss by putting Clayton Donaldson through to equalise with his 17th League goal of the campaign, and what proved to be his last goal for us at Griffin Park, before Marcello Trotta put the Bees ahead after good work by Jake Reeves and Jonathan Douglas.
Reeves and Trotta then combined straight after half-time to set up Alan McCormack to storm through the visiting defence and lift the ball past Murphy for the third to wrap up our fourth straight League win.
BBC CWR’s Sky Blues commentator Clive Eakin analyses Coventry’s start to the season, discusses the impact ex-Bee Zain Westbrooke had at the club last season, and describes what it’s like to report on a club in exile.
Q – How much did it mean for Coventry to be promoted last season – even if it was in the oddest of circumstances?
A – It meant a lot. After years of steady decline this was the second promotion in three years and despite the difficult end you won’t find any Coventry fan who doesn’t think they deserved to go up as champions.
Q – How do you analyse their start to this season?
A – It’s been difficult but with good reason for encouragement. They were pretty unlucky to lose to Bristol City, thrilled to come from behind and beat QPR and probably disappointed to just draw at Barnsley. The Bournemouth defeat was sobering as they looked a class above, but that was probably not really very surprising.
Q – What were the expectations at the start of this campaign – consolidation in mid-table, push for promotion or just survival?
A – I think survival is regarded as the key. Coventry reckon they have the lowest budget in the division and staying in the Championship three seasons after they were in League Two would be seen as an achievement.
Q – What transfer business did the Sky Blues do over the shortened summer?
A – They were able to bring a number of players in. Signing Callum O’Hare permanently from Aston Villa after his loan last season was key. Gustavo Hamer, signed from the Dutch League, looks a good replacement for Liam Walsh who was on loan last season, but Hamer will be missing against Brentford due to suspension. Norwegian Leo Ostigard has been brought into the defence on loan from Brighton, Ben Sheaf, who impressed at Doncaster last season, has been recruited from Arsenal, and Tyler Walker has been bought from Nottingham Forest to add an extra striking option. Perhaps most surprising of all is the return of Sam McCallum on loan from Norwich, who bought him from Coventry in January.
Q – What has it been like for City to have to play their home games at St Andrews?
A – For this season it’s made no real difference for fans, but ultimately supporters want the team back in Coventry. Crowds at St Andrews pre-lockdown were probably about half what they were at the Ricoh Arena, which is clearly affecting Mark Robins’ budget. We have reported that talks have reopened with the Ricoh Arena’s owners Wasps, but there’s no indication as to how they’ve gone.
Q – How did ex-Bee Zain Westbrooke do last season and how come he left the club in the summer?
A – Zain did well last season and was a key part of the title-winning squad. It was a surprise when he was allowed to go, but it was probably a case of taking advantage of an opportunity to move a player on so that new players could be recruited. Robins has shown he’s not scared to make changes even if it means moving on popular players.
Q – Which players should Brentford fans watching on iFollow look out for?
A – Matty Godden has continued his scoring form last year, Fankaty Dabo is lively from right wing-back, and Callum O’Hare is a handful.
Q – What memories do you have of watching Coventry play at Griffin Park and how excited are you about visiting our new stadium?
A – I think I’ve only covered Coventry twice at Griffin Park and I’m not sure they were games I’d want to remember much! The sad thing about visiting the new stadium is that the travelling fans, who like to tick off new grounds visited, aren’t able to do so this time.
Q – Finally can you give me a possible formation and line-up for this Saturday’s game?
A – If he sticks with his plans for this season it’ll be Marosi in goal.
For the central defenders it’ll be three out of Ostigard, McFadzean, Hyam or Rose.
Wing-backs will be Dabo on the right and Giles or McCallum on the left.
Liam Kelly is likely to replace Hamer as a holding midfielder alongside Sheaf.
O’Hare and Allen will probably be the attacking midfielders supporting Godden up front.
HOW TO FOLLOW THE GAME
The match is being played behind closed doors at the Brentford Community Stadium at 3pm on Saturday, but is being shown live on iFollow. Season ticket holders have been sent a free code to use to watch the match, but others can buy a match pass for £10.