Sixth v seventh, a sold-out Griffin Park for the last Boxing Day game there – Thursday promises to be a wonderful occasion.
Swansea arrive level on points with us, but a place behind because of goal difference.
They topped the table at the end of August – replacing Leeds at the summit after beating them 1-0 at Elland Road.
That was their fifth win out of their first six games, but their form then dipped dramatically and they only won one of their next seven.
The last game in that run was our 3-0 win at the Liberty, which dropped the Swans out of the play-off zone, and their results since then have continued to be mixed.
The Swans bounced back from losing to us by beating rivals Cardiff and Wigan in their next two matches, but a six-match winless run followed before they won their last two games before Christmas against Middlesbrough and at Luton.
Overall, their away record is better than their form at home. On their travels they have only been beaten once – 5-1 at West Brom earlier this month – while they have won five and drawn five.
But at home they have lost five times, while winning five and drawing two of their other games in south Wales.
They did have a brief run in the Carabao Cup – reaching the third round, where they lost 2-1 at Watford after getting past Northampton (3-1) and our first round conquerors Cambridge (6-0).
Swansea are in their second season back in the Championship.
They enjoyed seven seasons in the Premier League, with a best finish of eighth in 2014/15, although they only finished in the top half of the table in one of the other campaigns.
In 2013, they won the first major trophy in their history when they beat League Two Bradford City 5-0 in the Capital One League Cup final at Wembley.
That took them into the following season’s Europa League, where they negotiated two qualifying rounds to reach the group stages. They finished second to reach the knockout stages, where they lost 3-1 to Napoli after a goalless draw in the first leg.
WHO’S IN CHARGE
Steve Cooper was appointed to his first managerial job to succeed Graham Potter over the summer.
He spent his playing career in Welsh football with The New Saints, Rhyl, Bangor City and Porthmadog before moving into coaching and becoming the head of youth at Wrexham. From there, he moved to Liverpool’s academy, becoming its manager in 2011.
Two years later, he joined the FA’s youth set-up and ran the under-16 team and then the under-17s, who he helped win the World Cup for the first time in 2017. He also led them to the European Championship semi-finals a year later.
WE’VE MET BEFORE
Until our win at the Liberty Stadium in October, our recent record against Swansea had been pretty miserable.
In 2005/06, they beat us in the League One play-off semi-finals 3-1 on aggregate, after each side had won the home league match earlier in the season 2-1.
They failed to go up, and we met again the following campaign with Swansea doing the double with a pair of 2-0 wins – the same result when we met at the Liberty in the first round of the 2008/09 Carling Cup.
That was our last meeting until last season when we faced each other three times, with the Swans winning the lot with a goal aggregate of 10-3.
The only Griffin Park meeting – in early December – saw Swansea race into a 3-0 lead in only 27 minutes.
The first goal came after only 25 seconds when a mistake by Ezri Konsa allowed Barrie McKay to set up Wayne Routledge for the opener.
It was 2-0 after 22 minutes when a move involving Nathan Dyer and Oli McBurnie ended with the ball deflecting off Chris Mepham into his own net for an own goal. Leroy Fer quickly hit the third after another defensive muddle, but Ollie Watkins pulled one back with a header shortly before the break.
Said Benrahma gave the Bees hope of a remarkable comeback when he curled home a 20-yard free-kick for his first league goal for the club in the 69th minute. Brentford piled on the pressure but the closest we came to an equaliser was when Sergi Canos hit the bar with a volley late on as Swansea held on for a 3-2 victory.
The return game had to be postponed because on the same weekend, the sides were drawn together in the FA Cup fifth round – only our ninth appearance at that stage of the competition.
The Cup tie was played on the Sunday afternoon and turned into a nightmare for us as we crashed out 4-1.
Ollie Watkins put us ahead midway through the first half after a pass by Neal Maupay and we led at the break.
The Swans equalised four minutes into the second half when Bersant Celina’s free-kick hit the post and hit Luke Daniels’s back to go in for an own goal.
Four minutes later, Daniel James ran half the length of the pitch to score a superb solo goal to put us behind.
Ezri Konsa was later sent off for hauling down James and further goals from Celina, from the left-hand side, and George Byers, from 20 yards, merely confirmed the win.
The rearranged league game in early April was another disappointing trip for the Bees as Swansea cruised to a 3-0 win.
Once again, we fell behind after only a few seconds as Mads Bech Sorensen’s backpass was intercepted by Daniel James, who fed Nathan Dyer to score his first Swansea league goal since August 2014.
Dyer doubled the lead just after the half hour mark after racing clear of our defence and Daniel James sealed the win in the 78th minute, when he slammed home a rebound after Connor Roberts’s shot came back off the post.
Earlier this season, we ended a winless run of 10 league games, and 13 in all competitions, against Swansea with a 3-0 victory at the Liberty Stadium.
Said Benrahma hit the opener with a curling shot from the edge of the area, and an own goal from ex-Bee Jake Bidwell, under pressure from Bryan Mbeumo, doubled the lead before the break.
Mbeumo got on the scoresheet early in the second half with a fierce effort from 20 yards.
BBC Wales Football Correspondent Rob Phillips analyses the first half of Swansea’s season, tells us how Jake Bidwell has settled in, and recalls memories of previous Bees-Swans meetings at Griffin Park.
Q – Now we are at the halfway point in the Championship season, how would you assess Swansea’s campaign so far?
A – The Swans made a magnificent start under Steve Cooper, a rookie club boss who made managerial life look distinctly easy with five wins and a draw in his first half a dozen Championship encounters.
Swansea topped the Championship table at the end of a brilliant August with a significant 1-0 win at Leeds United – no mean feat at any time of the campaign.
To be honest, the international break which followed, was the last thing Swansea wanted. They have not hit such heights since.
Indeed, resuming after international breaks has been a real problem.
To be fair, Cooper never did get carried away by the breakneck start. Neither did he get too glum with the six games without a win which spanned November and into the early days of this month.
Recent wins over Middlesbrough and Luton Town ended that difficult period and Cooper will hope the longest chunk of the season (ahead of the March international break) sees his side hit top gear again.
And it must be pointed out, Swansea’s powerful opening to the campaign means that even though their form was indifferent for a few weeks, they are still very much in touching distance of a play-off spot.
We shall see whether their squad is strong enough to sustain this – much will depend on events in January. More of that anon.
Q – How is Steve Cooper doing and how does his management style compare with Graham Potter’s?
A – As I said earlier, he refused to get carried away with the tremendous opening to his first campaign as a club manager.
So far he has coped more than adequately with the transition from international age group manager – who led England to the 2017 under-17s World Cup triumph – to club boss in the thick of one of the most demanding leagues in domestic football.
The Swansea playing style has not been markedly different to that used by Graham Potter, who departed to Brighton in the summer.
It is based on a passing, pressing game, for which the Swans became synonymous under Roberto Martinez, Brendan Rodgers and Michael Laudrup.
If anything the club has gone back to its traditional “Swansea-lona” style which was the hallmark of their rise into the Premier League and seven years in the top flight.
Cooper’s appointment represents a co-ordinated approach from the Swans’ hierarchy to return to the style with which they earned so much success.
Q – What were the expectations at the start of the season – promotion push, mid-table or relegation battle?
A – I suspect a “mid-table” position would have been acceptable to most Swansea City supporters, especially after the summer outgoings.
The club were not in a position to turn down £15m for exciting Wales winger Daniel James from Manchester United and soon afterwards they accepted Sheffield United’s £20m offer for striker Oliver McBurnie.
Chairman Trevor Birch has made no secret of the club’s financial situation and that tempered expectations.
Add to that, the inexperience of Cooper in this scenario, and you could see why realistic ambitions were kept in check.
That said, the start to the season certainly lifted the bar as far as some were concerned.
In reality, Swansea City are no different to most of the rest of the division. A play-off spot would be huge for them – especially as West Bromwich Albion and Leeds United seem to be on a different level to the rest.
Q – What transfer business – in and out – do you expect Swansea to do in January?
A – In – not a lot. Out – well that is the BIG question. And probably holds the key to where the Swans will finish this season.
Andre Ayew is the talisman, a Ghanian striker who is not captain, but leads by example on the pitch and is the Swans top scorer. He is also a big wage earner at the club.
Spanish striker Borja Baston – a £15m recruit from Atletico Madrid in 2016 – is still there from the Premier League days, so is a relatively high earner, too.
Ayew’s contract is up in the summer of 2021 but with his obvious quality, it’s no surprise Cooper has already admitted he is expecting interest in the player in January.
Borja may not be a loss, given his goals have dried up following a spectacular start. But Ayew’s departure would not only be a big hit, but would probably send the wrong signal to fans, too.
Then again, financial necessity is the key.
Swansea have been linked with highly talented Liverpool youngster Rhian Brewster. They face competition, but Cooper’s connection with the player from the England under-17s days, could tip the balance the Swans way.
January is always an important transfer month, but seems even more so for Swansea City. In truth, most Swansea fans will probably be happy to see the back of 2020’s opening month.
Q – How has ex-Bee Jake Bidwell done since joining the club in the summer?
A – He has been a solid presence at left-back, becoming first choice for that position.
His biggest stumble was being sent off at Bristol City in September, for which he served a three-match suspension.
And though he has occasionally had to make way for the versatile Kyle Naughton, he has started the vast majority of Championship games.
His appetite for bounding forward to join in with attacks suits the Swansea style and is very much encouraged.
Q – It’s Swansea’s last-ever visit to Griffin Park, barring a cup tie or play-off, so what are your memories of previous games in TW8?
A – Bees fans won’t want to be reminded of this, but I was there when the Swans won 2-0 in 2006 to reach the League One play off final with a 3-1 aggregate victory over bretnford.
The first leg had been eventful after Jay Tabb had put the visitors ahead. Sam Ricketts equalised in the 87th minute, only for Bees keeper Start Nelson to be sent off before the end.
The mercurial Leon Knight had the last word with two goals in the second leg. Alas The Swans lost on penalties to Barnsley in the final.
Q – What style of football should Brentford fans expect to see from the Swans?
A – Not dissimilar to Brentford’s. Even if they are trailing in the dying minutes, the Swans are encouraged to pass the ball to move upfield.
They like to keep the pitch as wide as possible and their game is all about moving and passing.
Needless to say, they will want to perform this way a lot better than they did at home where, during the poor run, the Bees emerged with a sumptuous 3-0 victory in October.
Q – Which players should we watch out for?
A – Its difficult to under estimate the influence of Andre Ayew. He has capped some tireless performances with goals, whether he operates out wide or leading the line.
Captain Matt Grimes is a fine technician in the midfield and can dominate a game if allowed too much time on the ball.
Joe Rodon has emerged this season as a fully-fledged Wales international and – barring injury – a mainstay in the Swans defence alongside the ever-dependable Dutchman Mike Van der Hoorn, who is right up there among the best centre-backs in the Championship.
The other player to make an impact is goalkeeper Freddie Woodman, on loan from Newcastle United. He has performed really well and, like van der Hoorn, has started every League game.
Woodman also has friends in high places – England boss Gareth Southgate is his godfather!
Q – Finally, can you give me a possible Swansea starting line-up and formation?
A – (4-3-3) Woodman, Roberts, Van der Hoorn, Wilmott, Bidwell; Grimes ©, Byers, Carroll, Celina, Ayew, Borja.
BEESOTTED SCORE PREDICTIONS
Some of the Beesotted crew have given me their score predictions for Boxing Day’s game.
3-1 Bees. A brilliant display by the Bees at WBA means that Christmas cheer comes to Griffin Park. A Swansea team well beaten by Brentford at their own ground earlier this season get left with cold turkey. Liberal Nick
2-0 Bees. Brentford’s confidence remains sky-high after going toe-to-toe with arguably the best side in the league and leaving with a well-deserved draw. The Bees need to keep momentum going and against a good opponent at Griffin Park, that’s what will happen. Goals from Watkins and Mbuemo as per, with Bidwell getting a Benrahma-themed festive pasting in the process. Robin Hood
2-1 Bees. Swansea are out for revenge after being embarrassed at home in October, but Brentford are up to the task, containing the Swans’ attacking threat. Joel Valencia makes a lively cameo off the bench and we all enjoy a festive chorus of “Bidwell, What’s The Score?”. Kate
3-1 Bees. Another impressive Boxing Day Sky TV win (remember Villa?) Mbuemo puts Bidwell on his arse for at least one of the goals. Matt Allard
PUBS IN BRENTFORD AND TRAVEL NEWS
Please note – pub opening times may vary because it’s Boxing Day!
For Swansea fans coming to Griffin Park for the final time, you are probably aware there plenty of pub options pre-match and all are most welcoming and away-fan-friendly (as it should be). As you are probably well aware, Brentford is well known for its four pubs – one on each corner of the ground. The Griffin is closest to the away end (like 30 secs walk) and is very popular with away fans – but also very, very busy. The New Inn is on the other side and is also popular with away fans. The Princess Royal and the newly-opened and renamed The Brook pub – which has jumped on the craft beer bandwagon – are the other options.
Other pubs slightly further afield for the more creative amongst you include (and this is by no means a definitive list) …. The Globe (Windmill Rd) & The Lord Nelson (Enfield Rd) are both incredibly friendly and cosy away-friendly pubs and about 1 min walk from each other …. frequented by ‘away fans in the know’. The Plough (Northfields Ave) in Northfields is a decent stop-off if you are coming by tube to Northfields.
The ‘Northfields run’ makes a much better pub crawl route than South Ealing – getting off at Northfields station, turning left and stopping off at The Plough (2 min walk), The Lord Nelson (10 min walk from The Plough) & The Globe (1 min walk from The Nelson) en-route before ending up at The Griffin (8 min walk from The Globe) by the away turnstiles. There’s also a relatively new tiny microbrewery pub in Northfields called The Owl and The Pussycat (Northfields Ave) – right turn out of the station away from the ground as opposed to left.
If you decide to get off at South Ealing station, we’ve heard a few people pop into Roddy’s Bar. Whereas The Ealing Park Tavern (back in the day, the infamous Penny Flyer) is fairly busy now that they seem to have lifted their “no football fan” policy.
If you like your craft beer, another fairly new pub worth checking out is The Black Dog Beer House, formerly The Albany, on Albany Road, which is fairly busy before and after the match. There is a pub right by Brentford mainline station referred to as … the Pub by Brentford station.
For real ale head to the Magpie and Crown pub on Brentford High Street. The Royal Horseguardsman (Ealing Road) can probably hold 15 of you at a push. The Brewery Tap (Catherine Wheel Road) is a cosy boozer by the river. And if you are super-adventurous, get off at Kew Bridge and visit One Over the Ait (Kew Bridge Road) – a spacious boozer right next to Kew Bridge, and across from the site of the Bees’ new stadium at Lionel Road. This pub is situated on the location of the now-demolished Oxford & Cambridge pub where Brentford Football Club was founded in 1889.
There is also The Express Tavern (Kew Bridge Road) – an ale pub with a retro feel. If you sit in the garden, you can see Brentford’s new stadium towering over you. There are a load more pubs in the river in Kew if that takes your fancy – just take a walk down Strand On The Green. A quick Google search and you’ll find them all.
There are many, many more too if you have a look around. Parking near the stadium is a no-no but is pretty easy in the streets north of Griffin Park on the other side of the A4 Great West Rd via Ealing Road or Windmill Road. Make sure you look our for the parking signs which change from area to area.
Getting to Brentford from town – many fans get the tube to Waterloo (Northern, Jubilee lines) or Vauxhall (Victoria Line) then take the Overground train to Brentford.
The reality is the tube is easier and quicker (and cheaper). It’s 35 minutes to South Ealing or Northfields stations from King’s Cross or Euston (even less from Paddington) on the Piccadilly Line and then 15 minutes walk to Griffin Park from there (4 mins on the bus) – more if you take the Northfields to Brentford
If you’re feeling lazy you could take the E2 bus from outside Northfields station (turn LEFT outside the station) to either outside The Globe pub (3 stops – serves The Lord Nelson too) or Brentford FC (4 stops – 5 minutes).
If you get off at South Ealing, you can get the 65 from the bus stop across the road – right outside the station.