Games are coming thick and fast at the start of this extraordinary season and, in the third round of the Carabao Cup, the Baggies face a club who were very much in their thoughts in June and July.
Brentford were hot on Albion’s heels in the post-lockdown run in last season although they ultimately came up short and couldn’t take advantage of the nervy finish that Slaven Bilić’s side suffered.
The Bees lost to Fulham in the play-off final and seen last season’s leading scorer, Ollie Watkins, move to Aston Villa for in excess of £30m. Saïd Benrahma is also expected to leave before the end of the transfer window and he has not been involved in any of Brentford’s games so far this season.
Thomas Frank opted to spend a small amount of the Watkins proceeds on Peterborough United striker, Ivan Toney. Linked with Albion in recent years, Toney scored 24 goals for Posh last season but is yet to open his account for the Bees.
Brentford played their first game in the new Brentford Community Stadium last weekend, defeating Huddersfield Town 3-0, but their 2-0 win at Southampton in the previous round of the Carabao Cup was impressive, particularly when you consider that it was a near full-strength Saints side. Thomas Frank could only name six substitutes after a positive COVID test had forced a number of players to self-isolate.
Brentford’s squad size means that the side that play at Albion is likely to be close to their strongest line up and it will be interesting see what side Slaven Bilić selects.
In round two, the Croat made ten changes from the team that started the opening league fixture and also went with a 4-4-2 formation that we hadn’t previously seen during his tenure. Charlie Austin, who started up front with Hal Robson-Kanu, evidently didn’t impress as he was not in the squad at all for the trip to Everton. Indeed, none of the fringe players impressed enough to earn a place in the starting line-up at Goodison Park, although Sam Field, who performed well against Harrogate, did make the bench and was brought on for the final fifteen minutes.
I expect Bilić to make changes once again but the team will need to start better than they did against the EFL newcomers assuming the Brentford side is as strong as I suspect. I expect Conor Gallagher to make his debut but the suggestion is that Ivanović is still a couple of weeks away from making an appearance. Kipré’s interview with the club website this week suggests that he knows he will be involved.
It will be interesting to see whether Austin is involved against the Bees. There has been talk of him potentially leaving the club and, while Bilić opted for a 4-4-2 to start both him and HRK against Harrogate, it was only the Welshman who came out of that game with any credit thanks to his long range goal. Perhaps we will see one of the more favoured formations on Tuesday evening such as 4-2-3-1 or even the new 3-4-3.
There is an argument to play more of the first team in an attempt to ensure the win, and breed confidence, but I would be surprised if more than one or two of Saturday’s starters are involved.
Much as Premier League survival will be this season’s primary aim, I always like a cup run, so whoever plays tomorrow night, I’ll be hoping that they can do enough to swat the Bees.
Albion’s last home win over Brentford was in the League Cup, in the first round in 2003. A brace from Rob Hulse and goals from Bernt Haas and Scot Dobie saw the Baggies run out 4-0 winners in a match that saw Bees ‘keeper, Paul Smith, sent off just before half time.
The clubs were also drawn together in the League Cup in 1998, this time over two legs. Albion won the first leg at the Hawthorns 2-1 thanks to goals from Mickey Evans and Lee Hughes, but it was the Bees, then in the fourth tier, who progressed after they convincingly won the second leg at Griffin Park thanks to goals from Jamie Bates, Charlie Oatway and Lloyd Owusu.
The only other occasion in which the clubs have met in cup competition was in 1959 in the FA Cup fourth round at the Hawthorns. On that occasion, two goals from Derek Kevan were enough to put the hosts into round five.
Brentford are yet to win at the Hawthorns losing nine of the eleven games that have played at the Shrine, although the two draws have come on their last two visits.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
26 Jun 2020 – League Championship
Brentford 1 (Watkins)
West Brom 0
Last meeting at the Hawthorns
21 Dec 2019 – League Championship
West Brom 1 (Furlong)
Brentford 1 (Dalsgaard)
16 Mar 2019 – League Championship
West Brom 1 (Edwards)
Last win at the Hawthorns
12 Aug 2003 – League Cup 1st Round
West Brom 4 (Hulse (2), Haas, Dobie)
Albion’s Record against Brentford