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Brentford 2 v 1 Middlesbrough
FA Cup
Saturday, 9th January 2021 Kick-off 15:00
Brentford vs Middlesbrough FA Cup preview: A view on the opposition
Friday, 8th Jan 2021 16:51 by Phil Spencer

Middlesbrough are preparing for an FA Cup clash like no other when they travel to take on Brentford on Saturday evening.

With a COVID-19 outbreak at both clubs we're set to see two patched up sides and even a replacement for Thomas Frank in the Bees' technical area.

Such circumstances make it incredibly hard to predict an outcome for this one, but we spoke to Sky Sports' journalist and Brentford writer Dan Long to get the lowdown on the promotion contenders.

How would you sum up Brentford’s season so far?

In some ways, it has been a slow burner to date. I think some people expected there to be a hangover from the play-off final defeat to Fulham and while I don’t think that was the case in reality, it has only been since the November international break that they’ve really kicked on. It’s now seven wins from 10 league games for Thomas Frank’s men, while the Carabao Cup semi-final defeat to Tottenham was their first in 17 games in all competitions. They are five points better off than they were at the same stage last season, which could have made the promotion race look a whole lot different, so overall, it’s been an enjoyable first half in the Championship, while the run to the semi-final was a very welcome bonus.

With the promotion race and the club’s Carabao Cup exploits so far, is the FA Cup a priority for Thomas Frank?

Without doing the FA Cup a disservice, with the promotion challenge ticking along nicely, I wouldn’t say it would be a priority, no. However, what it does provide is a chance for Thomas to field players that probably haven’t had as much game time as they’d have liked so far, as well as blooding a host of B Team players who’ve been included in his matchday squads over the last month or so. The squad is of a healthy enough size to be able to do that now, meaning the majority of the first team squad will have time to recuperate and be fresh to return to league action against Reading on 16 January.

Who are Brentford’s main men?

Based on the fact we expect a second string side for this game, the one man to look out for is Marcus Forss. He’s an explosive, young Finnish striker who impressed on loan at AFC Wimbledon last season and has carried that form into this term, with seven goals in six starts. He’s largely been restricted to appearances from the bench due to the form of Ivan Toney, but was one of the stars of the Carabao Cup run and signed a new five-and-a-half-year deal at the club in December. He’s also started to make his mark on the international scene and scored in a 2-0 win over France on his debut. Elsewhere, Iranian forward Saman Ghoddos hasn’t hit the heights expected of him yet, but could view this fixture as an opportunity to offer a glimpse of what he’s capable of.

Which area will Middlesbrough look to exploit against Brentford?

It’s no secret Brentford like to play free-flowing football and Middlesbrough successfully frustrated them during their last visit to west London back in November, when they returned to Teesside with a point after a goalless draw. If they can replicate something like that, they’ll stand in good stead this time around. I wouldn’t say there are any particularly ‘weak’ areas that stand out, even with a second string, though Dom Thompson’s loan move to Swindon means Brentford are now likely to be light on the left-hand side of defence, with Rico Henry the only recognised left-back at the club.

How will Brentford line up against Middlesbrough?

It’ll likely be the usual 4-3-3, but in terms of personnel, I couldn’t say for certain. Luke Daniels will almost certainly start in goal, and I’d imagine there will be starts for Tariqe Fosu, Emiliano Marcondes, Saman Ghoddos and Marcus Forss. B Team players Aaron Pressley, Fin Stevens and Max Haygarth could feature, too.

What is your prediction?

Even though Brentford have won three of the last four meeting between the two sides, I’m going to err on the side of caution and go for a 1-1 draw, with the Bees prevailing in a shootout.

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