Brentford manager Thomas Frank described football as “a light in the dark” for many of those affected by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, ahead of his side’s EFL Cup semi-final trip to Tottenham this evening.
Frank’s side, who had last Saturday’s Championship fixture against Bristol postponed due to a COVID -19 scare in the City team, will play their first game of 2021 at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium when they travel to face the Premier League side. Despite the recent rise in coronavirus cases and controversy over three Spurs players violating health and safety guidelines to attend a party, Frank believes it is essential that football continues.
“I think it’s important actually, maybe even more important than ever, that football is continuing. I think for a lot of people it’s a light in the dark and they cheer on their heroes,” he said.
While Tottenham have some pedigree in the cup, having won the competition in 2008, for Brentford, the match is the club’s first-ever in a major cup semi-final.
“It’s a massive game and in some way unknown territory for us. It’s a huge game that we are looking forward to play. We will do our best to attack and try to take our chance against a top side, a top team in the world with top players and a top manager. I’m looking forward to it!” Frank said.
Both sides have been having a respectable season and are currently fourth in their respective divisions. Tottenham prepared for the match with a comfortable 3-0 win over Leeds United in the Premier League, while Brentford saw off Championship promotion rivals Bournemouth 2-1 in their final game of 2020, the latest in a 16-match unbeaten run in all competitions.
Despite their league form, it is perhaps in the EFL Cup that Brentford have garnered the most attention this season. The Bees have beaten four Premier League sides en route to the semi-final, with midfielder Josh Dasilva scoring the only goal of the game against a full-strength Newcastle team to set up today’s fixture.
For Dasilva, the club’s current form and the litany of Premier League scalps they have taken suggest that his side are close to Premier League quality. “We’re not far from being a Premier League team. I’m not sure how big the gap is but I know that we’re not too far off and we’re heading in the right direction,” the former Arsenal academy man said.
Frank concurred that beating four Premier League sides had given his team confidence, but admitted that Tottenham represented a far greater challenge. He said: “No disrespect to Southampton, Newcastle, Fulham, or West Brom, we’re still talking about a different kind of team and quality now. We are talking about a top 10 team in the world and a top four team in England.”
Tottenham are likely to field an extremely strong side against Brentford, with Spurs manager Jose Mourinho – who has never lost a semi-final or final in the competition – saying during his own press conference: “Is this my biggest game since arriving at Spurs? Yes, I think so.”
Faced with such a proposition, Frank was understandably guarded on his side’s chances of progressing to the final. “If [Tottenham] are bang on, yes of course they are a better team, better players and they should win. But football is football, so that’s why of course we know we have a chance,” he said.
Frank was also full of praise for his opposite number, who has won the cup four times (three times as Chelsea manager, once as Manchester United manager). “Jose is one of the greatest of all time. Of course it’s a privilege to meet him and to play against his team, I’m looking forward to that, but we all want to compete and I want to win,” the Danish coach said.
While Frank was coy about his team’s chances, he refused to rule out a memorable upset. “If we don’t believe in ourselves, if we don’t give it a shot, then there’s no reason for us to turn up,” he concluded.
The EFL Cup semi-final between Tottenham and Brentford will kickoff tonight at 19:45 and will be live on Sky Sports. Due to the ongoing pandemic, there will be no second leg. If the scores are level at the end of fulltime, the game will go to extra time and then penalty kicks if necessary.