The first of this season’s EFL Championship playoffs gets underway this Monday at 18:00 (GMT) and it features the two favourites for promotion in their first leg duel.
Looking to make an immediate return to the Premier League, Bournemouth are the hosts, but it is visitors Brentford that are the more fancied of the two to be playing top flight football next season, thanks to an unbeaten run of 12.
Both sides will be feeling that they should have been playing EPL fixtures this season.
While Bournemouth were losing their Premier League relegation battle last summer, Brentford Just missed out on automatic promotion on the final day of the season. That was before navigating a two leg playoff tie against Swansea only to lose in the final to Fulham, who themselves have just been relegated from the top flight.
For either side to take Fulham’s place and secure Premier League football next season they must overcome this two leg tie to bag a place in the final at Wembley in just a few weeks’ time.
Thomas Frank’s Brentford haven’t lost since the beginning of May when they were beaten 1-0 at Carrow Road, home of the champions Norwich.
Since then, the Bees have put together a run of six wins and six draws in the 12 matches that followed that defeat.
Bournemouth, on the other hand, finished the season with three consecutive losses and without registering a goal in that time.
Notably, that sequence included a 1-0 home defeat to this week’s opponents in which Bryan Mbeumo scored the winner and Pontus Jansson was sent off for the visitors.
Jonathan Woodgate’s Cherries also failed to put together a winning home run in 2021 meaning they need to find some form – fast!
Read on for what we think is going to happen.
Bournemouth V Brentford Predictions
There are plenty of questions flying around the outcome of this game, which on the face of it, should be far easier to call than I suspect it really is.
Brentford haven’t lost in almost three months and finished the higher of the two in third place.
Sixth place finishers Bournemouth are on a run of three straight defeats to Stoke, Wycombe and, as already noted, Brentford here at the Vitality Stadium, so anyone could be forgiven for this is an away win banker.
But in truth this is a tricky game to predict.
Qualifying for the playoffs by a solid seven points, was Bournemouth’s dodgy run simply down to them accepting that their playoff place was in the bag and Woodgate conserving his men’s energy for the bigger games that lay ahead such as this one?
Prior to those three defeats, they had put together a winning run of seven games of the bounce, not including an FA Cup quarter final defeat to Southampton.
What you do get the sense of, is that for The Cherries this game is a must win. They will certainly not want to go the Brentford Community Stadium next week requiring a victory.
We can maybe expect a cagey affair then as both teams look to avoid defeat. A draw, after all, would be a much better result for Brentford, whose third place finish means that they have the advantage of playing the second leg at home – with crowds – next Saturday.
So, out of the two, you would imagine that Bournemouth will be the most desperate for a win, while Brentford would settle for a draw.
Bournemouth manager Jonathan Woodgate is playing down his side’s chances heading into the game, claiming The Cherries to be the underdogs, which is, to be fair, probably accurate.
The other problem with Bournemouth right now is that they haven’t found the back of the net since Dominick Solanke registered the fourth in a 4-1 win over Millwall just under a month ago.
The visitors on the other hand, possess the league’s top scorer in Ivan Toney and have a made a happy habit of finding the net in the second half of games.
This helped The Bees finish as the top scorers in the league so I doubt this contest will end goalless, but it could well end in a stalemate.
Bournemouth V Brentford Head to Head
Brentford hold the recent head to head bragging rights having completed the double over the Cherries, most recently in a 1-0 win at the end of April which provided the catalyst for a severe reverse in form for Woodgate’s team.
Of their last five meetings, Brentford have won the last three with Bournemouth last winning on the opening day of the 2014/15 season, their first meeting since a bore draw in 2013.
Bournemouth Team News – W W L L L
There are no new selection concerns for Jonathan Woodgate who welcomed back defender Lloyd Kelly in the Cherries’ last match.
With several staring names rested last time out, a fully fit Bournemouth should be fresh and raring to go, with Diego Rico expected to reclaim his place at left-back.
Brentford Team News – W W W W W
Brentford will be without Rico Henry who is side lined with a hamstring injury and Josh Dasilva who will not play again this season.
Other than that, Thomas Frank could recall Sergi Canos and Saman Ghoddos to the starting eleven.
Bournemouth V Brentford Betting Tips
I think we can safely say we will see a far different Bournemouth side than the one we have been watching over the past few weeks.
Ignoring, if we dare, The Bees 1-0 win at the Vitality just a few weeks ago and its role in The Cherries’ bad run of three defeats on the spin, that all came off the back of seven straight wins on the spin which had secured their spot in the playoff zone.
If they have simply taken their foot off the pedal since then, they surely have the quality to put their foot back on the gas in this game.
And, desperate as they will be to still be in the tie come next Saturday, they will look to come flying out of the box and look to take one of their chances early on.
The problem for Jonathan Woodgate is that his opponents outscored everyone else in the division this season and have in their ranks some impressive attacking talent, including the Championship’s sharpest shooter in Ivan Toney.
Plus, given The Bees second half scoring record, there could well be a sting in the tail for the hosts as Brentford nick a second half draw.