Manchester City are on seemingly unstoppable form at the moment as they become the final opponents of a historic 2021 for Brentford.
Premier League champions for three of the past four seasons, City lead the way again after the Boxing Day matches – with a six-point advantage over Liverpool, having played one more game.
Since losing 2-0 at home to Crystal Palace at the end of October, one of only two league defeats so far this season, they have won nine consecutive Premier League matches, including the remarkable 6-3 Boxing Day victory over Leicester.
Their only other loss came 1-0 at Spurs on the opening weekend of the season.
Before Tuesday’s games kicked off, City were joint top scorers with Liverpool in the Premier League on 50 goals, giving them 112 in the calendar year, the highest total since Arsenal scored the same number in 1963.
At the other end, they have only conceded 12 goals in their 19 matches, the lowest total in the division.
They have kept 11 clean sheets with only Palace and Liverpool, in a 2-2 draw at Anfield, scoring more than once against them.
Wednesday’s game will be the third time this season we have hosted the Premier League leaders, following the visits of Liverpool in September and Chelsea in October.
City, another side we have only met a handful of times in the league, have been transformed by huge investment since 2008.
Since then, they have won five Premier League titles, one FA Cup, and six League Cups and they were also runners-up in last season’s Champions League final.
WHO’S IN CHARGE
Pep Guardiola is the third longest-serving manager in the Premier League, behind Sean Dyche and Jurgen Klopp, and sixth longest-serving in all four divisions, after taking over as Manchester City boss on 1 July 2016.
He joined the club after successful spells at both Barcelona and Bayern Munich.
He won 14 trophies with Barca, including the La Liga title in three of his four seasons in charge and two Champions Leagues, before leading Bayern to three successive Bundesliga titles, winning the German Cup in two of those campaigns.
So far, he has won 10 trophies at City.
WE’VE MET BEFORE
Say the name of Manchester City to most Brentford fans and one of the most famous days in our modern history immediately comes to mind – the famous FA Cup fourth round tie of January 1989.
The Bees had a miserable record in the competition and hadn’t reached this stage for 18 years.
After beating non-league Halesowen, and then both Peterborough and Walsall in replays, we were drawn against Second Division City at Griffin Park.
In the era of inflatables, the ground was filled with fans holding blow-up bees and bananas – and they witnessed a memorable 3-1 win for Brentford, with Gary Blissett the hero.
The Mancunian striker gave us the lead when he turned in Richard Cadette’s pass from close range, and Keith Jones doubled the lead from just inside the area before half-time.
Future Bee Nigel Gleghorn pulled one back for City on a mudbath of a pitch, but Blissett had the final say when he slotted home a rebound after Cadette’s shot had been saved, following good work by Andy Sinton and Roger Stanislaus.
Remarkably we played City twice more in 1989 – in a two-legged second round Littlewoods Challenge (League) Cup tie.
In the first leg at Griffin Park, Terry Evans gave us a first-half lead when he nodded in a cross from Gary Blissett, who doubled the lead from a rebound in the 85th minute, before David Oldfield pulled one back in the dying seconds.
David White levelled the tie on aggregate from close range early on in the Maine Road second leg, but our then record signing Eddie May equalised on the night – and restored our aggregate lead – before the break.
However, three goals in five second-half minutes ended our challenge – two from Trevor Morley and one from David Oldfield giving City a 4-1 win on the night and 5-3 overall.
We were drawn at home to City in the FA Cup third round in 1996/97. The original tie was postponed twice – the second time on a Tuesday night only two hours before kick-off, because part of the Griffin Park pitch was frozen.
City officials were furious at the late call-off, but – showing how different things were only just over 20 years ago – referee Mick Fletcher told the Independent: “Brentford officials were apparently trying to contact me in the afternoon. I was on my way but don’t have a mobile telephone. I left home at 15:00 and was told the pitch was playable then. But I don’t think Brentford were anticipating the temperature would drop so severely.”
When the tie did take place finally, City edged through 1-0 thanks to a 62nd-minute goal from Nicky Summerbee.
In the league, we’ve only played City eight times and the results have been quite even with three wins to us and four to City.
Our past league results – with Brentford score first – are:
Division One (now Premier League)
1935/36 – (H) D 0-0 (A) L 1-2
1936/37 – (H) L 2-6 (A) L 1-2
1937/38 – (H) W 2-1 (A) W 2-0
Division Two (now Championship)
1950/51 – (H) W 2-0 (A) L 0-4
BBC Radio Manchester’s Manchester City reporter Mike Minay looks at our visitors’ season so far, why they are so consistent, and what Brentford need to do to have a chance of getting something out of the match.
Q – How would you assess Manchester City’s season so far?
A – It has to be a success. Top of the table and nine Premier League wins in a row, the Blues are hitting their stride and don’t really look all too beatable at the moment. The Champions League group stage was another positive, an impressive win over PSG, and yes their League Cup reign came to an end, but that might not be a bad thing allowing them a couple of weeks’ respite in the season.
Q – What is behind City’s consistency – they seem to be able to roll out win after win with ease?
A – Rhythm. Pep Guardiola will talk about rhythm. They play every game in the same manner. It’s about keeping the ball, but using it with purpose. “You cannot lose if you have the ball” is a common phrase of the City manager, and it’s true. Their high pressing, their vision and belief is what’s helping them this season, another year without a regular striker.
Q – What makes Pep Guardiola such a good manager?
A – His relentless nature. His attitude is what he expects from his players. Total commitment to the cause. He doesn’t rest up, after one game it’s on to the next, immediately. His eye for detail, his ability to see things perhaps we don’t. Or even try things no-one else would. His midfield is his engine room, and he uses that to get over his issue of no recognised striker.
Q – What transfer business – incoming and outgoing – do you expect to happen in January?
A – We know that Ferran Torres is on his way out and heading for Barcelona. That’s a shame because there was promise there. But he wanted to return home, there was the attraction of one of the biggest clubs in the world, so he’s to go. As for anything else, I expect very little. It’s unlikely anybody will be incoming this January.
Q – What would be seen as a successful season for City?
A – Defending the Premier League trophy is so important to the club and to Pep Guardiola, so that has to be top priority. I think they’d like to see another decent run in the Champions League too – going one further and winning it? City have only won the FA Cup twice in their money-era, it’d be nice to see them have another crack at that, but then are we getting greedy?
Q – What do Brentford need to do to have a chance of getting something from the match?
A – Leicester were well out in the first half against City. Poor defensively and suffered under the high press and intensity from the Blues. In the second half they tightened up, went to five at the back and hit City on the counter. And they wouldn’t be the first to have success against City doing it this way. Others have concerned and frustrated City by getting it to 0-0 (or losing 1-0) until the 80th minute then having a real go.
Q – What have you thought of the Bees from what you have seen so far this season?
A – They’ve impressed haven’t they. They’ve adapted well to the Premier League and take the top teams (Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea) to the wire and that has to give them credit and City food for thought. And Ivan Toney – what a player.
Q – Finally can you give me a possible City line-up and formation please?
A – City will go 4-3-3 (unless Pep really wants to change it up) with a false nine. I’d expect Ederson to be in goal, a back four of Cancelo, Stones, Laporte, Zinchenko. (Dias might be rested as is on four yellow cards and a big game at Arsenal to come on New Year’s Day). De Bruyne, Rodri and Bernardo in midfield with Sterling, Jesus and Foden up top.
HOW TO FOLLOW THE GAME IF YOU CAN’T BE THERE
If you can’t get to the Brentford Community Stadium for Wednesday’s 8.15pm kick-off, there are various ways of following the game.
TV – The game is being shown live on Amazon Prime, with coverage starting at 7.30.
Radio – There will be live commentary on BBC Radio London and TalkSport 2 and reports on BBC Five Live.
iFollow – If you want Brentford commentary, iFollow audio coverage is available via monthly or seasonal passes. Coverage starts half an hour before kick-off and is advert-free, with Mark Burridge and the team. His summarisers on Wednesday are Karleigh Osborne and Natalie Sawyer.
PUBS IN BRENTFORD AND TRAVEL NEWS
For Manchester City fans coming to the Brentford Community Stadium, there are plenty of pub options pre and post-match and all are most welcoming and away-fan-friendly (as it should be).
The pub areas are split into two zones. There is the area around Brentford’s old Griffin Park stadium. The pubs there are still very busy on match day frequented by Bees locals before heading down the road to the stadium at Kew Bridge which is only 15 minutes walk.
Then there is the area in and around the stadium in Kew Bridge.
It is possible, if you have a good early start, to savour a few pubs in and around Griffin Park and Brentford zone before heading off to the pubs in the Kew zone or even vice versa if you so fancy.
Pubs in Griffin Park/Brentford zone
When at Griffin Park, Brentford was well known for its four pubs – one on each corner of the ground. Three are still operating.
The Griffin is closest to the old away end and has always been very popular with both home and away fans and has its regulars who still make the journey down to the new stadium from there on matchday. The New Inn is on the other side which used to also be popular with away fans before the move. The Brook pub is the other option if you want to savour a pub in and around what is left of our old home. Worth a peep if you want to reminisce about old Brentford.
About five minutes’ walk away from the old ground are two pubs which are enormously popular. The Globe (Windmill Rd) is a “lively but comfortable” pub on matchday. Incredibly friendly and cosy, it has always been popular with a selection of away fans who fancied having a beer a few minutes further walk away from the ground without having to queue six persons deep. After the move to the new ground, The Globe has retained many of lot its regulars from the Griffin Park days and with screens throughout the pub and in its sheltered beer garden, it shows both Premier League and EFL football before and after each match.
Meanwhile around the corner, The Lord Nelson (Enfield Rd) is another incredibly friendly and cosy away-friendly pubs about one minute walk from The Globe. Again with a TV screen for live sports and a lovely beer garden, this is another pub frequented by “away fans in the know”.
The other pub worth checking out in the Griffin Park region is The Black Dog Beer House, formerly The Albany, on Albany Road, if you like your real ales.
There are plenty of other pubs in and around Brentford High Street including real ale pub Magpie and Crown (Brentford High Street) and the cosy Brewery Tap (Catherine Wheel Road) near the river.
For a Griffin Park area pub crawl before heading over to Kew we recommend the following: Take the Piccadilly line to Northfields station. Turn left and walk for 2 mins and you will come to The Plough (Northfields Ave). Then walk to The Lord Nelson (10 min walk from The Plough) & then The Globe (1 min walk from The Nelson) en-route before hitting The Griffin (8 min walk from The Globe) and then The Black Dog (2 mins from The Griffin). You can also try and do the other three pubs on the corner whilst down here if you fancy.
Then you can then either walk (15 minutes from The Globe/The Nelson and The Griffin/Black Dog ) or take a train from Brentford station (which is five minutes walk away from both The Globe/The Nelson and The Griffin/Black Dog) or a bus (237/267) to Kew Bridge.
Trains run at 24 and 54 minutes past the hour to Kew Bridge from Brentford and take two minutes.
Pubs in the Kew Bridge zone
Right next to Kew Bridge station, you will find the Express Tavern – an ale pub with a retro feel. The pub has been refurbished in readiness for the new football season and needless to say, is popular before the match due to its close proximity to the stadium.
Across the road by the river is One Over the Ait – a spacious boozer right next to Kew Bridge. This pub is situated on the location of the now-demolished Oxford & Cambridge pub where Brentford Football Club was founded in 1889.
Across Kew Bridge and the River Thames, there are two pubs on Kew Green – the Cricketers and the Greyhound – very close to the pier where Brentford fans have embarked on their away journeys by water to F*lham, Orient, Charlton, West Ham and even Southend.
North of the river along hoity-toity Strand on the Green, you will find The Steam Packet, in an old Cafe Rouge, and The Bell. A bit further down are The City Barge and the Bulls Head – two pubs side-by-side in which you would often see Ant and Dec hanging out.
There is also The Pilot which you can get to coming out of the BACK entrance of Gunnersbury station and we believe the old John Bull pub at the front of the station has been refurbed as The Gunnersbury but we have never been there so can’t give it a rating.
Transport to Brentford and Kew Bridge
The simplest way on paper to get to Brentford FC from town is to take the tube to Waterloo (Northern, Jubilee lines) or Vauxhall (Victoria Line) and then take the Overground train to Kew Bridge, which is right by the stadium. Brentford is one stop further on if you are on an ‘Original Griffin Park Pub’ mission.
With trains from Waterloo being only twice an hour (22 and 52) and taking 28 minutes, we normally recommend people jump on the tube from King’s Cross or Euston and head to Northfields or South Ealing on the Piccadilly Line as it is quicker (including the time getting across London and waiting at Waterloo) and trains are more frequent.
It is only 40 minutes max station by tube to station meaning you could be in a Brentford pub within an hour of embarking your train at Kings Cross, Euston or Liverpool Street.
The other station option is Gunnersbury. You can walk to the stadium from Gunnersbury tube station (District line) in 25 minutes or take a bus (H91, 237, 267, 110), but note that it is closed for entry for one hour after the match.
For the Brentford/Griffin Park pubs you can get the Piccadilly line tube to Northfields station from King’s Cross or Euston (35 minutes) then walk down to The Plough, The Globe, The Lord Nelson and The Griffin and other pubs from there.
The new stadium is around 25 minutes’ walk from South Ealing station – if you don’t fancy Gunnersbury – or you can get on the 65 bus from across the road which will drop you almost outside in 15 minutes.
You can also pick up the 65 bus from Ealing Broadway (District and Central line) which will take you to the new stadium in 25 minutes.
You can check out Transport for London’s guide to travel on the Tube and Overground.