Brentford travel south to face Brighton in the Premier League for the final instalment of Boxing Day football this coming Sunday.
A 2-0 midweek defeat in the Carabao Cup quarter-finals to Chelsea marked the club’s first game after a pair of COVID-enforced postponements. However, after ending a 74-year wait to return to the top flight this summer, the 16-day hiatus between Brentford’s latest Premier League fixtures is a minor gap for Bees fans to stomach.
Here’s the lineup Thomas Frank may deploy against the side that inflicted Brentford’s first ever Premier League defeat back in September.
Alvaro Fernandez (GK) – David Raya’s stand-in would have required a replacement of his own had Brentford’s game against Manchester United gone ahead as planned – an absence that would have made 18-year-old Matthew Cox the fourth-youngest keeper in Premier League history.
Ethan Pinnock (CB) – Brentford’s most prolific winner of aerial duels this season ironically had his heading ability (or lack thereof) singled out as a particular weakness by the coach of his sixth form team all those years ago.
Pontus Jansson (CB) – The Brentford skipper ended an 80-game wait for his maiden goal for the club against Watford and has the chance to score in consecutive league games for the first time in his career at any team.
Mads Bech Sorensen (CB) – Granted his second start of the season in midweek, one of the six-strong Danish contingent in the playing staff may well be poised for a third outing from the off given the raft of injuries ailing fellow centre backs Kristoffer Ajer, Mathias Jorgensen and Charlie Goode.
Sergi Canos (RWB) – The team’s chief progressive outlet with the ball at his feet doesn’t shirk the defensive duties Frank took time to convince him about when first broaching the topic of a position switch.
Shandon Baptiste (CM) – Knee surgery allowed for just ten minutes of Championship football in Brentford’s promotion success but the Reading-born Granada international has grown in stature and confidence with every top flight outing, increasingly providing the driving force from midfield.
Christian Norgaard (CM) – Afforded a rare rest from the off against Chelsea in midweek, the commanding Dane is set for a swift return to the set up.
Vitaly Janelt (CM) – Having proved to be an able stand in as part of the side’s back-three amid a glut of centre back absentees for Brentford’s most recent Premier League outing, the 22-year-old may well be reinstalled in his familiar midfield role.
Rico Henry (LWB) – Even the squad’s longest serving player wasn’t around the last time Brentford failed to win a Boxing Day game in 2014 – the club’s one defeat on 26 December in their past 12 outings the day after Christmas.
Bryan Mbeumo (ST) – While his ball retention could certainly be improved (no Brentford regular is more likely to miscontrol or be dispossessed than the Frenchman) there is little room for improvement with Mbeumo’s work out of possession.
Ivan Toney (ST) – The goals may not be flowing in quite the same torrent since promotion, but Brentford’s top scorer (with four) remains an integral attacking fulcrum around which his side revolve.