Brentford versus Chelsea is a fixture with plenty of history. The two sides have met ten times in league competition, but Brentford’s lengthy absence from English football’s topflight means this particular West London derby has not occurred in league football for 74 years.
Much has changed since that comfortable Chelsea victory in March 1947 when the Blues ran out 2-0 winners, but the importance of this fixture remains clear.
Thomas Frank, manager of Brentford, made it clear he understood this at the pre-match press conference.
“Derbies are always special, but especially now that it’s a West London Derby at home” he said.
Brentford’s history in this fixture has been chequered at best.
They have not beaten Chelsea since before the Second World War, and in the six subsequent matches between the clubs, they have only managed one draw and conceded 16 goals.
Frank is aware of this; he was assistant manager last time the two sides met, an FA Cup fixture in 2017. Brentford lost the fixture 4-0.
“It was not the best” Frank said, “but we are determined to make it better on Saturday.”
This Brentford side will be confident of being able to do exactly that. No players remain in the squad from that day, and this new team is making their presence well and truly felt in English football’s top-flight.
The Bees are seventh in the table after seven matches, having already obtained an impressive 12 points. Three wins, three draws, and just a single loss have included stand-out performances against Arsenal and Liverpool.
Their star striker, Ivan Toney, has picked up where he left off after a record-breaking season in the championship when he scored 31 goals.
Plenty of other players are grabbing headlines too, none more so than Bryan Mbuemo, who has scored vital goals like the winner against Wolves earlier this season.
To get any sort of positive result, though, will take a huge effort. Chelsea come to the Brentford Community Stadium brimming with confidence.
Thomas Tuchel’s side are top of the league; they boast the league’s joint meanest defence, having only conceded three goals, and are the division’s second most potent attack, having already found the net 15 times in their seven matches.
Frank knows the scale of the task ahead. He jokes about how when Brentford achieved the pinnacle of their recent history, beating Swansea 2-0 in the Championship Playoff Final, Chelsea were busy winning the Champions League final.
Frank says: “It shows the difference between the two clubs.”
The Brentford manager is at his most fascinating when he starts to talk more in depth about how exactly this Chelsea side can trouble teams.
He says: “Chelsea are a complete team with a big threat from set pieces. They dominate the game with their shape and they have a lot of tactical flexibility.
“Also with Lukaku and his physicality, they can put more crosses in the box – and on transition they are a big threat!”
He pauses and laughs before finishing with: “they can hit us from every angle!”
With such a sizeable task in front of him, one could forgive Frank for finding it a bit daunting. This could not be further from the case, though.
Frank says:“We believe in ourselves, we’re not trying to go out there and make a nice performance, and everyone likes Brentford. No, we’d rather try to win.”
So how should his side go about the match?
One theme dominates everything Frank says,”we need to be brave” he states,
Conventional English football thinking would associate bravery with clattering into big challenges and winning headers.
This might be important, but Frank says: “We need to be brave enough to press high and want the ball in as many moments as possible.”
This is no small request, but Frank holds everyone associated with the club to high standards, even the fans in the stadium, whom he analyses almost in the same way as he analyses what happens on the pitch.
He says: “We need a top performance from them again. They need to be on it, I was extremely pleased with them against Liverpool”.
It’s unsurprising that a manager who demands high standards of the crowd at games is managing to get high standards out of his players, too.
Brentford fans will be hoping that these standards don’t slip on Saturday. Their season has already been filled with highlights, but a win in this latest West London Derby would surely eclipse all that has come before it.