Just under one month ago, Thomas Frank’s Brentford side moved to within two points of the automatic promotion places with a game against second place Leeds United on the horizon.
However, five games later and the Bees are eleven points away from the top two, with only a three-point gap keeping them inside the play-off places.
Brentford were many neutrals ‘dark horses’ to compete for promotion this campaign, and the London club have met expectations so far. However, when considering their current form, do the Bees have enough to keep up their promotion push?
Their opposition on Saturday, Sheffield Wednesday, are lingering in mid-table obscurity, eight points of the play-offs and ten points above the relegation zone.
Garry Monk has come under substantial pressure in recent weeks, with only an FA Cup run to distract fans from the gloom around Hillsborough.
Things could go from bad to worse for the Owls, with the possibility of a point deduction for financial misconduct looming over the South Yorkshire side.
As mentioned, within five games Brentford have seen a gap of just two points to the automatic places widen to eleven, with a run of five games without a win to blame.
Last time out the Bee’s let slip a 2-0 advantage to draw 2-2 away to Cardiff City. The result came off the back of a surprise loss against bottom of the table Luton Town. Despite the poor run of form, Brentford have lost just one of their last seven outings, with four draws in their last five.
The club topped the form table in the first month of the new year, yet the latest run sees them sitting sixteenth in the current form table of the last six games.
The game against Wednesday is vital for the home side to turn around their form, with fixtures against fellow promotion hopefuls Fulham and West Bromwich Albion in the following matches.
The Owls have just a singular win to their name in their last nine games, with only Hull City and Middlesbrough in worse form in 2020.
Despite a spirited encounter against Manchester City, which saw the Championship side defeated just 1-0, Wednesday’s performances in the league have been abysmal since the New Year.
Last time out, the Owls found themselves 3-0 down within half an hour at home against Derby County. This is not the first time they have shipped goals at home; season ticket holders have been treated to a 5-0 home loss to Blackburn Rovers and a 3-0 home loss to Reading, both coming in the last ten matches.
As things stand there is very little danger of a relegation battle, although, if a points deduction is placed upon the club, Wednesday will need to revitalise there form soon if they hope to remain a Championship club.
The Brentford boss should be able to name an unchanged line-up to the draw against Cardiff, with only long-term injuries still interrupting his best eleven. Defender Pontus Jansson hasn’t played since mid-January, with Mathias Jensen and Julian Jeanvier also sidelined.
As for Wednesday, Garry Monk expects Julian Borner to be fit for the match vs Brentford, but states Kieran Lee will miss out, with both players picking up injures against Man City in midweek.
Wednesday are also expected to be without Massimo Luongo and Adam Reach.
What to Expect
With nineteen goals conceded since New Year’s Day, Sheffield Wednesday have the second worst defence over that period. Taking on a Brentford side whose twenty-two goals over the same timeframe ranks as the best in division, Monk may have reason to worry come Saturday afternoon.
At the other end of the pitch, Wednesday have scored only nine goals in 2020, another stat that sees them bottom of the division. With their inability to find the back of the net, coupled with Brentford’s attacking prowess, it’s likely the Bees will get on the scoresheet at some stage.
With Brentford averaging over 55% possession compared to Wednesday’s 47%, it’s likely the home side will dictate play.
One way the Owls may look to hurt Brentford is in the air. Wednesday win an average of ten aerial duels more than their opposition, and with twelve of Brentford's thirty-three goals conceded coming from set pieces - corners and free-kicks may be a way in for Wednesday.
Losing star man Neal Maupay in the summer was a huge blow for Brentford. However, the move forced wide man Ollie Watkins into a central role and the performances of the 22-year-old has meant Maupay is nothing but a distant memory for Bees fans.
Watkins is the divisions second top scorer with twenty-two goals in thirty-six appearances this campaign. The striker has played all but ten minutes of Championship football this season and is the spearhead behind Brentford’s potent ‘BMW’ attack force.
Wednesday will need to keep the Brentford attack quiet if they are to grind out a result on Saturday. Defender Tom Lees has been in and out the side with injuries this season but with over two-hundred appearances for the Owls under his belt, Lees’ experience is vital at the heart of the defence.
Lees wins more aerial duels (six) than anyone else in Monk’s squad, as well as more clearances (five) and if anyone is to keep Watkins quiet Lees is the man.