SWANSEA face Brentford in the Championship play-off semi-final first leg on Sunday night. James Cantrill (@) shares his thoughts on the Griffin Park showdown.
Swansea vs Brentford | Sunday 26th July 2020, 18:30 | Sky Sports
There has barely been chance to catch a breath since the thrilling climax to the Championship season on Wednesday. It was a final day that saw Brentford botch the chance to seal automatic promotion whilst Swansea defied the odds and snuck into the final spot of the play-offs.
They say momentum is a crucial asset to have coming into the playoffs and Swansea will have it in abundance after thrashing Reading at the Madejski. Wayne Routledge's 91st minute header meant the Swans had orchestrated the seemingly impossible, pipping Forest -by a goal difference of one – to that elusive sixth spot, ensuring a shot at a return to England's top tier.
In stark contrast, Brentford will be bearing huge phycological baggage after combusting during the tail end of their Championship campaign. It looked inevitable that the Bees would gain automatic promotion after winning all eight of their first post lock down fixtures by an aggregate score of 15-2.
However, back-to-back defeats to Stoke and Barnsley meant they slumped to third in the table. You have to wonder if Thomas Frank's side will be able to bounce back from that late defeat to Barnsley given the way they seem to crumble under pressure.
Joe Rodon, Ben Wilmot and Freddie Woodman all miss out for Swansea through injuries, Kyle Naughton is suspended. Following his brace on Wednesday, Routledge will be pushing for a start, however, I'd be surprised if manager Steve Cooper tinkers with his starting XI given their impressive performance midweek.
An unchanged side would be the following; Mulder; Cabango, Hoorn, Guehi; Roberts, Fulton, Grimes, Bidwell; Gallagher; Ayew, Brewster.
Nikolaos Karelis is the only player set to miss out through injury for the Bees. Thomas Frank may make a change and recall Mathias Jensen to the starting line-up. This would see them lining up as follows; Martin; Dalsgaard, Jansson, Pinnock, Henry; Jensen, Norgaard, Dasilva; Mbeumo, Watkins, Benrahma.
Swansea Draw No Bet (37/20 Unibet)
Swansea seem ridiculously priced at 3/1 to win. This is not just because of the way the last day of the season went but their form since July is equally impressive; the Swans have won 66.7% of their games (W4-D2-L1).
Like previously eluded to, I do not think you can overlook or underestimate the influence momentum will have on this clash and given the gulf in prices I'm happy to have a go on Swansea Draw No Bet at 37/20 (Unibet).
Given with what is at stake, playoff first legs – particularly at this level- are usually tight, well contested, cagey affairs with little separating the sides. Therefore, I was very surprised to see that Swansea were this long, particularly given the fact that they finished the season in better form.
Brentford can not be entirely overlooked, they boast an impressive behind closed doors win rate of 77.8% and have a scintillating attacking trio of Bryan Mbeumo, Ollie Watkins, Said Benrahma, capable of turning any game. However, given Swansea's price I think it is worth the risk.
Brewster to be centre-screen on Sunday
Since joining Swansea in January, Liverpool's youngster Rhian Brewster has been on fire. With 10 goals in 20 appearances he is the form striker in the league and he's fresh of the back of bagging a worldie midweek.
Brewster also tops Swansea's charts for fouls per-game (1.6) and bookings per game (0.3) having been awarded six bookings in 20 appearances.
At just 20 years of age his naivety could exposed in such a pivotal clash, especially when you consider that he could be up against Swedish international Pontus Jansson, a centre back with bags of experience having made 149 Championship appearances.
It is also worth noting that the referee for this one is Keith Stroud who booked Brewster when Swansea played Leeds.
Therefore, a Brewster card at 6/1 (Betfair) seems very long considering he's only 3/1 with Bet365. I was also by the price when you couple it with him to score anytime at 26/1 (Betfair) considering that the same bet is just 11/1 with Ladbrokes.