After defeat against Barnsley before the festive period was followed by a 1-1 away draw at Cardiff City on Boxing Day, Thomas Frank brings his high-flying Brentford across London to face Millwall at The Den.
A team who have always half fancied themselves for promotion, The Bees have been in great form this season and their recent impressive run of nine wins, one draw and three losses in their last thirteen have seen them climb as high as third in the table and only a couple of positive results away from breaking into the top two. Of the last Baker's dozen of games played, the West London side are unbeaten in their last four and recorded respectable wins against the likes of Cardiff City, Fulham and Swansea City. Aside from the recent banana skin against bottom of the table Barnsley, Gary Rowett's Millwall go into this game also in relatively good form and are only touching distance from the play-offs. With a place in the top six up for grabs if the Lions can re-establish their momentum, the home side will be eager to get back to winning ways in front of the home fans.
The league head-to-heads between the two lean in the favour of the visitors, with Brentford victorious 24 times compared with Millwall's 20 and the points shared on 21 occasions. The earlier league meeting saw The Bees score two late goals to overcome goals from Tom Bradshaw and Jed Wallace, so Millwall will be desperate to ensure they do not suffer a league double defeat in this London derby.
Haven't we met before?...
Millwall 1-0 Brentford, Friday 16th February 2001 – A first half goal in the 18th minute from Tim Cahill was enough to seal the victory for Millwall and put The Lions eight points clear at the top of the Second Division. It was Brentford who should have taken the lead when Lloyd Owusu broke clear of the Millwall back line, but the forward wasted a glorious chance in front of goal. The back and forward affair saw both sides waste chances to hit the back of the net, but Millwall held on until the final whistle in a game which contributed to them winning the league title at the end of the season.
Alex Pearce is back in the side and Murray Wallace is also pushing for a starting place having returned to the bench against Cardiff on Boxing Day. Ben Thompson is still doubtful after his injury he sustained against Derby County at the beginning of December. Ryan Leonard and Tom Elliott remain out of contention.
Sergi Canos and Nikos Karelis are the only long-term absentees for Brentford, with the two still recovering from knee injuries.
THE ONE TO WATCH -
JON DADI BODVARSSON
Many are talking about 'that' free-kick scored in the Welsh capital and others are talking about the importance of having Alex Pearce and Murray Wallace back from illness, but a lot of eyes in South London will be the man up top with Tom Bradshaw - Jon Dadi Bodvarsson. There were grumbles in the stands at the start of the season when he was keeping the bench warm, but since he has been in the starting eleven, the Icelandic forward has not yet hit the form that has made him popular with the fans of Wolverhampton Wanderers and Reading. A player of undoubted quality and a player who knows where the back of the net is when given half the chance, this is a big game for the attacker to re-establish himself in the starting eleven, especially when there are those questioning whether or not he should be rested for Matt Smith or Aiden O' Brien.
WHO ARE YA?
For this week's 'Who Are Ya?', we sit down with Dave Lane, a fanzine editor, film maker, publisher and more importantly, a Bees fan. This week we ask Dave what he thinks of Brentford's promotion chances, who Millwall need to look out for and what he thinks the score will be.
1. Wow, what a start to the season and you are just outside the top two at Christmas. As a team who historically think they may have an outside chance of promotion, is this year the year?
It could be to be honest, although it is unlikely. Some of the football we have been playing really does deserve to grace the top tier, however, we don’t have the strength in depth necessary to cope with a couple of injuries in key areas, but if we can keep up the consistency and high standards, anything is possible. We are not counting any chickens quite yet!
2. You are the joint third highest goal scorers in the league this season and also second best for goals conceded. What’s the secret behind everything clicking in this campaign?
Quite simply the arrival of Pontus Janson has been a master stroke in during up things at the back, with Nathan Pinnock and Julian Jeanvier coming of age alongside him centrally. Rico Henry and Henrik Dalsgaard have been outstanding too. Up front we are spoiled for attaching options, and Ollie Watkins has take to the centre forward role like a duck to water.
3. Aside from Ollie Watkins who has 15 goals, there isn’t any other player in the double figures for Brentford. Is it good to know that you can get goals from other areas of the park if Watkins were to have a dry patch?
It is a concern that we rely on Ollie so heavily, although there is a chance that Marcus Forss will be brought back from AFC Wimbledon, and the arrival of Halil Dervişoğlu from Sparta Rotterdam is a shot in the arm.
4. Earlier in the season, it took two late goals to beat Millwall 3-2 at Griffin Park. Can you see this game going similarly?
We hope not, although that result gave the Bees a real sense of belief to continue doing the right things even when games are going against us. The result is more important than the performance at the New Den.
5. Which player(s) do Millwall need to look out for?
Not tell you lol. Although you already know all about Josh Desilva’s ability to shoot from distance after last season’s worldie!
6. What do you think the score will be?
3-1 to Brentford
PREDICTION: MILLWALL 0-0 BRENTFORD
There is no denying it, this is going to be a really tough game for Millwall and against a side who are sweeping teams away for fun, any result that sees us get points will be one I take with both hands. Brentford defend very well and have one of the best defences in the league, but I am hopefully optimistic that they too do not breach the Millwall back line and this ends in a goalless draw.
Come on you Lions.