BRENTFORD and Barnsley are in must-win territory as we enter the final round of regular Championship action. James Cantrill (@) shares his thoughts on the Griffin Park showdown.
Brentford vs Barnsley | Wednesday 22nd July 2020, 19:30 | Sky Sports
Brentford welcome Barnsley to Griffin Park for a season finale that will have huge ramifications at both ends of the Championship table.
With the fate of both sides now out of their hands, the hosts come into this clash knowing only a win will be good enough to keep them in contention for automatic promotion whilst the Reds need three points to be in with a chance of beating drop.
I do not think the phrase polar opposites will ever be more apt then when it is used to describe these two clubs.
On one hand, you have Brentford. A club ran by people that hold the best interests of the football team and fans at heart with ethos of development and longevity. They play attacking, fluid football spearheaded by a front three of Said Benrahma, Ollie Watkins and Bryan Mbeumo (the likes of which will surely be playing at a higher level next term be that with or without Brentford).
The Bees have scored goals the most in league (79), conceded the second fewest (36) and- prior to their last game- they had won their last eight league fixtures on the trot.
Barnsley, on the other hand, is a club ran like a business. Frequently, they sell their best players as they yo-yo in-between the second and third tier of English football. Already concern is mounting amongst Tykes fans that the club will cash in on the likes of Alex Mowatt, Cauley Woodrow and Jacob Brown – even if they do secure their Championship status for next season.
In comparison to Brentford, development and longevity is non-existent at Oakwell. This is best epitomised by the fact that since the Bees appointed Frank Thomas as their manager two years ago, Barnsley have had five bosses! Their previous permanent appointment, Daniel Stendel, was told he was surplus to requirements following Barnsley's 3-1 defeat in the reverse fixture back in September after he requested the club signed some experienced Championship players on-loan.
Again, in stark contrast with Brentford, Barnsley have scored the second fewest goals in the league (47). However, defensively they are very pragmatic. Since the restart, Gerhard Struber's side have only conceded six goals in eight games, four of which came in their defeat at Stoke. Behind closed doors, they have conceded an average of 0.75 goals per-game. Pre-lockdown, they conceded an average of 1.67 goals per-game.
Both sides have just one confirmed absentee a piece; Nikos Karelisis is sidelined for Brentford and Romal Palmer for Barnsley, both have injuries.
Frank may still shuffle his deck from that side that lost to Stoke, with some reports suggesting that Emililiano Mercondes will replace Mathias Jansen in centre midfield. This would see Brentford line up in a 4-3-3 formation as follows; Martin; Dalsgaard, Pinnock, Jansson, Henry; Marcondes, Norgaard, Dasilva; Mbeumo, Watkins, Benrahma.
Struber may bring the club’s top goalscorer Woodrow back into the starting XI at the expense of Rtizmaier or Thomas. You'd expect the Austrian will opt for the same 3-4-1-2 formation that saw his side snatch all three points in injury time vs Forest last game. Their XI could potentially be; Sahin-Radlinger; Sollbauer, Andersen, Williams; Ludewig, Rtizmaier, Mowatt, Styles; Woodrow; Brown, Chaplin.
All of the above points to this fixture replicating a game of attack vs defence, which it more than likely will, however, I am reluctant to pick an outright winner given what is at stake for both sides. Instead I am going to have a go on the goal line, a player prop and player booking.
Under 2.5 Goals (11/8 Betfair)
Since the restart, Under 2.5 Goals has landed in 87.5% of Barnsley's games and they've kept five clean sheets. They limited Leeds to just six shots in their 1-0 defeat at Elland Road and the goal was an own goal. In fact, in their last three games they have only conceded a total of three shots on target (Nottm Forest had one, Leeds had two and Wigan had zero).
Despite their attacking prowess, Under 2.5 has landed 50% of Brentford's post-lockdown fixtures.
When you combine this with the importance of the fixture with what is at stake, it should make for a low-scoring, cagey affair.
Mowatt 1+ shot on-target (4/1 Paddy Power)
Mowatt has the fourth-highest shots per-game (1.6) of any player at Barnsley, only strikers Brown, Conor Chaplin and Woodrow have averaged more SpG this season. Since the restart he's had a total of 12 shots, with one shot on-target landing in five out of Barnsley's last seven.
On a more human level, Mowatt is Barnsley's captain and recently got awarded Player of the Season by the club. Both of which illustrate the fact that he is an integral cog in Barnsley's team and having watched him on numerous occasions this season he's certainly a player who will take a game by the scruff of the neck and lead by example.
Mowatt's price suggests that there is a 20% chance that he will have a shot on target, however, the stats outlined above suggest that there is a 62.5% probability of it happening.
Mowatt was also 4/1 for anSoT vs Leeds when the markets were released but this shortened to 5/2 by the time the game kicked off. It's also worth noting that the only other bookie to price this is up SkyBet and they have him priced shorter at 3/1.
My main concern with this bet is Brentford's defensive solidarity. They have conceded the second fewest SoT in the league (131) which converts to an average of just 2.9 per game. Post-resumption, this decreases to an average of 2.75.
Given the price that Mowatt is currently available at and the severity of the game, I'm happy to take a punt on him with all things considered.
Styles to be carded (6/1 Bet365)
Three left sided players out of five of Brentford's last opponents have received a booking. This may be because the Bees’ right winger Mbeumo is their most fouled player (1.4 times on average per-game).
Callum Styles has only been carded once this season in 16 appearances, however, he has only started four games, three of which have been during Barnsley's three most recent games. During which he's started at LWB, LCM and LB, attempting 13 tackles and committing four fouls. The youngster has not faced a direct opponent as such, nor has he faced a player of Mbeumo's quality yet.
Barnsley rank fifth for fouls committed this season (594) and second for yellow cards received (91). The referee in charge for this one, Robert Jones, has on average awarded 3.2 cards per-game behind closed doors.
Like mentioned, Styles has lined up on the left hand side in Barnsley's last three games and if he starts their vs Brentford I think he represents value in comparison to Barnsley's other left sided players.
The next best price is available at 5/1 with BetVictor.