FOOTBALL RETURNS: Championship back with a bang as Fulham face Brentford


The Championship promotion race returns on Saturday with a West London derby between two sides still hoping to gate-crash the top two, as Fulham host Brentford on the banks of the Thames.

Where they stand

Fulham (64 points) and Brentford (60) sit third and fourth, but are both running out of time to make up ground on West Brom (70) and Leeds (71) in the automatic promotion places.

Scott Parker’s side could pile on the pressure in Saturday’s early kick-off and currently have the best home record in the Championship (12-2-5), yet they still manage to frustrate their fans with repeated inconsistency this season.

In 12 matches on their own turf since November, they’ve endured four cycles of a loss followed by two wins, including disappointing defeats against lowly Hull (21st) and Barnsley (24th) – both 3-0.

The visitors, meanwhile, know that anything less than a win would all but consign them to the play-offs.

Brentford’s away form has been admirably average for a side sitting in the top four, with four wins, four draws and four defeats in their last 12 games on the road.

The Bees haven’t lost at Craven Cottage since 1990 (ten matches) though and also triumphed in the reverse fixture back at Griffin Park back in December, 1-0 thanks to a first half strike from Bryan Mbeumo.

Team News

Ollie Watkins (credit: EFL)

Both Fulham and Brentford expect to have fully fit squads to choose from, having used the lockdown to get injured players back in training.

That means the Championship’s two sharpest strikers are set to do battle, with the hosts’ Aleksandar Mitrović (23 goals) just ahead of Ollie Watkins (22) in the scoring charts.

Thomas Frank’s side can also call upon one of the best wingers in the league, Saïd Benrahma, who has been linked with a move across West London to Frank Lampard’s Chelsea this week.

The Cottagers have a range of talented options in attack and can choose from Ivan Cavaleiro, Aboubakar Kamara, Bobby Reid, Anthony Knockaert and number ten Tom Cairney to support their Serbian international striker.

Aleksandar Mitrović (PA / empics sport)


Scott Parker is happy to be returning to action at Craven Cottage, despite the absence of the home supporters.

He said: “We’re living in a world that’s very different. There’s been hurdles to jump and ultimately you need to be flexible.

“We hope that while the fans are away, we can bring entertainment. We hope that they can watch us and their team with some excitement and some joy.

Scott Parker (credit: EPA)

“We know we’ve got their backing and we know they’re fully behind us, even be it from their homes and from a distance, and they’ll keep supporting us in that way.

“Playing in your home stadium with familiar surroundings can still be an advantage, I can only see that being a boost.”

The Fulham head coach is also positive about his side’s prospects on the pitch. He continued: “The squad is looking good; overall we’re in a good spot. Everyone will be needed and used; we’re looking forward to the weekend.

“Intensity of the game comes from the physicality and the mindset of what the occasion brings. A London derby and what that brings against your rivals will add spice and both sides will understand that.”

Thomas Frank (credit: empics sport)

Bees boss Thomas Frank, meanwhile, was bullish about his side’s ambitions for the rest of the season.

He said: “Our aim is to get promoted; we are in a good position in the league. We don’t take anything for granted but we trust ourselves and believe in ourselves. As long as there is a chance, we will go for that [top two spot].

“We know we play, on our day, some very nice, attractive, forward-thinking football, but the one standout thing we have done so much better this year is defend.”

“We are in a better place because we have all out injured players back. When we can play our strongest team, plus having the next in line, then we are very strong.”

On the current circumstances, the Danish manager added: “All football matches, preferably, are played with fans.

“Football is for the people and we would love to make our fans happy. Unfortunately, the world is not normal at this moment in time so we need to get the best out of that.”


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