NATIONAL LEAGUE outfit Barnet host Championship side Brentford on Monday night and FA Cup lover Gab Sutton (@_FootbalLab) picks his best bet.
Barnet v Brentford | Monday 28th January 2019, 19:45 | BT Sport
Barnet and Brentford clash on Monday night – but how should we distinguish between the two clubs?
One is a modestly-sized, Bees-nicknamed, formerly Martin Allen-managed club on the outskirts of London – the other… ah.
Thankfully, it has been nearly a decade since any commentator has needed to tell them apart.
The last meeting came back in March 2009, when Brentford’s Marcus Bean netted to secure successive 1-0 wins over their fellow citizens en route to the League Two title.
Since then, Brentford have progressed to become regular protagonists in the Championship’s play-off scramble, while Barnet have been unable to stabilise in the EFL, suffering their most recent relegation last season.
Barnet in limbo
Not only are Barnet in danger of finishing in the bottom half of a non-league division for the first time since 1985-86, they are also in something of an existential crisis.
During Martin Allen’s fourth stint with the club, one at least knew what they were going to get: a powerful, hardworking side threatening via early balls in behind for John Akinde.
Since Allen left his last meaningful stint in December 2016 though, the club has made eight different managerial appointments, including ‘Mad Dog’ himself for a two-month spell at the end of last season.
While some of those alterations were influenced by the threat of relegation, they indicate a lack of clear leadership at the top and perhaps a change from the Tony Kleanthous regime is the change that would benefit the club most.
For now, straight-talking interim boss Darren Currie deserves credit for steadying the ship – and the 1-0 FA Cup 3rd Round victory at Sheffield United has generated funds whilst putting some pride back into the club, earning him the permanent job.
Sorensen to shine?
With Chris Mepham moving to Sheffield United, Ezri Konsa, Julian Jeanvier and Yoann Barbet are the only senior centre-backs available to play in the back-three.
However, Danish defenders Mads Bech Sorensen and Luka Racic, currently in the Bee Team, are both highly-rated within the club’s hierarchy.
Thomas Frank could do with assessing the capabilities of at least one of the duo against lower league opposition, so as to get a sense of his priorities in the summer transfer window.
Sorensen, who is listed as a first team player on the club’s official website, might be given the nod on the left a back-three, so Yoann Barbet can be rested after playing six full matches over the last 19 days.
In May 2015, at 16 years, three months and 26 days, Sorensen was deemed good enough to become Ostbirk IF’s youngest ever player, before going on to captain Denmark at youth level; all the evidence points to a player with a hugely exciting future in the game and we could get a glimpse of that at the Hive.
The Tactics Board
Energetic midfielders Jack Taylor and Wesley Fonguck will undertake box-to-box roles in Barnet’s narrow 4-3-3 system; Charlee Adams would normally act as the controlling pivot but, as he’s suspended, we can expect utility man Craig Robson to take his place with Andre Boucaud still sidelined.
Taylor and Fonguck will want to break forward to support enigmatic wide forward Medy Elito, formerly of Dagenham, young dribbler Ephron Mason-Clark, who won the penalty at Bramall Lane and striker Shaquile Coulthirst, who converted it.
However, it’s also important that they are disciplined for long spells, with at least one of the duo sticking close to Robson.
If Brentford play without a recognised centre-forward, as they did in their 1-0 Third Round victory over Oxford, they will have Sergi Canos, Said Benrahma and possibly Chiedozie Ogbene looking to occupy spaces just in front of the penalty area, making it difficult for centre-backs Dan Sweeney and Callum Reynolds to mark any of them man-for-man.
Although Barnet have pace going forward, they could find it hard to unlock Brentford, because the visitors have solidified since moving to a three-man defence.
The Betting Angle
If Brentford were playing this match before Christmas, one would have thought that Barnet might have had some joy.
While it would be wrong to dismiss Currie’s side, who have already beaten Championship opposition in this competition, their last match was a 4-0 loss at Braintree after goalkeeper Mark Cousins was sent off early on. The suspended Cousins will be replaced by Leeds loanee Will Huffer.
Brentford have won four of their last seven in all forms, drawing the other three, so the similarities between them and Barnet might become less obvious come kick-off.
Barnet v Brentford – Brentford/Brentford (7/5 BetVictor)