This was always going to be a potential banana skin, but the contrasting form of the two clubs coming into this only intensifies that feeling.
Brentford are 4th in the Championship, haven’t lost any of their last 13 games – the longest active unbeaten run in England’s top 4 tiers – and in Ivan Toney they have an in-form striker who’ll be desperate to prove a point to the club who didn’t give him his chance.
As for us, our back-to-back wins over Palace and West Brom have quickly been followed by alarming displays against Leeds and Fulham. We collapsed at Elland Road, yet there was absolutely no sign of a response against Fulham on Saturday in what can only be described as a passive and painstakingly poor attempt to beat a newly promoted side who were down to 10 for a third of the game.
Bruce has developed a habit of finding a big result just when he needs it to keep his head just above water. I hope he does it again on Tuesday night to see us through to a rare cup semi-final, but it says a lot about recent displays and his uninspiring tenure that we’re fearing the worst against a Championship side who are the pre-match favourites!
The club have confirmed that Allan Saint-Maximin and Jamaal Lascelles are still recovering from Covid, meaning they will remain out.
Mark Gillespie will be hoping to start after playing every minute of our cup run so far, but it’s tough to say who’ll start between the sticks with Karl Darlow in such great form and Martin Dubravka now back in training!
Elsewhere, Bruce has all but confirmed that Federico Fernandez will sit this one out, with the after effects of Covid leaving him with “fatigue”. The lack of news on Fabian Schar and Javier Manquillo also suggests they’ll be sidelined once again.
Predicted line up
Predicted NUFC XI (4-4-2): Gillespie – Krafth, Hayden, Clark, Lewis – Murphy, Hendrick, Shelvey, Fraser – Wilson, Gayle.
OUT – Darlow, Yedlin, Fernandez, Dummett, S Longstaff, Ritchie, Almiron, Joelinton?
IN – Gillespie, Krafth, Hayden, Lewis, Hendrick, Fraser, Murphy, Gayle?
Starting in goal, Gillespie has started all of our EFL Cup games so far and has generally done a very solid job (aside from his error vs Newport!), so he seems likely to continue in goal.
At the back, I can see Krafth returning after being given a rest in our last two, with Lewis also likely to return at left-back. Both have struggled this season, but Manquillo remains out and Dummett won’t start twice in a few days after so long on the sidelines.
Hayden will then be forced to fill in at centre-back alongside Clark, as Bruce reckons “fatigue” will keep Fernandez out of this one following his half-time withdrawal over the weekend.
In midfield, I’ve got a feeling Matty Longstaff will be handed a rare start, but with Shelvey recently rested against Leeds (and key to creating from deep) and Hendrick fresh after missing out v Fulham, I can see those two forming our midfield duo.
In attack, Fraser will surely return after creating our two goals at Leeds only to find himself on the bench against Fulham. He should start on the left, and I can see Murphy getting a big chance to impress down the right, with his pace and improved final ball capable of causing them problems in Saint-Maximin’s prolonged absence.
Up top, Wilson may be pushed to his limit playing FOUR games in 10 days so soon after a recent hamstring injury, but the pre-match signs are that he’s told Steve Bruce he wants to play. It could backfire, but I can’t see us going without our top scorer when we’re a win away from Wembley.
I can also see Gayle coming in – a player whose record against Championship opposition speaks for itself!
I initially wondered if Carroll would be given a rare start after a month watching on from the bench, but he doesn’t have the mobility to hurt an attacking Brentford side who’ll probably have us playing on the counter!
Here’s a few ones to watch in Thomas Frank’s high-flying Bees side:
Ivan Toney – Not only does the former NUFC striker arrive with a big point to prove, he has scored a stunning 16 goals in 20 games so far this season. A fox in the box who is incredibly mobile for a 6ft 2′ striker.
Bryan Mbeumo – Benrahma and Watkins made most of the headlines last season, but the French right winger is still with the Bees and enjoying another impressive season. After 17 goals last year, he’s been involved in 9 already this year (3 goals and 6 assists), proving he has final product to go with his pace. If Lewis return to the side, he’ll need to be better to keep the French U-21 talent quiet.
Mathias Jensen – The Dane is their midfield playmaker and always seems to ooze class whenever I watch Thomas Frank’s free-flowing side. A quality passer who shows real calmness in possession. His craft mixed in with Da Silva’s dynamism will be one to watch.
Marcus Forss – The Finish forward has enjoyed a breakthrough season with the Bees in 2020/21, bagging seven goals already this season and regularly catching the eye in a left-wing role just wide of Ivan Toney. He’s scored in their past two Carabao Cup wins over Fulham and West Brom and will be looking to make that a hat-trick here!
Predicted Brentford XI: (4-1-2-3): Raya – Dalsgaard, Jansson, Pinnock, Henry – Jalet – Jensen, Da Silva – Mbuemo, Toney, Forss.
I hope I’m wrong, but I am fearing the worst here and have anything but high hopes.
They’re unbeaten in 13, full of confidence and have a in-form striker with a MAJOR point to prove in Ivan Toney – who’ll be facing up against a defence without several first-team centre backs.
We have a game-changer in Wilson and a huge opportunity to make a rare semi-final, but we looked lost, leggy and lacking in any ideas last time out.
As ever, we live in hope, but expectations going into this one are alarmingly low after the performances we’ve put in against newly promoted sides over the past week.
Prediction: Brentford 2-1 Newcastle