Preview: Brentford vs. Chelsea

Preview: Brentford vs. Chelsea

Three days after failing with an attempt to have their Premier League match against Wolverhampton Wanderers postponed, Chelsea are set to be forced back into action again for Wednesday’s EFL Cup quarter-final against Brentford.

The Blues are suffering an ever-worsening coronavirus outbreak within their squad, giving Brentford extra hope of claiming a major scalp in this West London derby.

Should this match go ahead as planned – something which is far from guaranteed during this time of short-notice postponements – then it will no doubt only add to Chelsea’s fury that they are continuing to be forced to play despite having a severely depleted squad.

The Premier League and EFL decided on Monday to keep the festive fixture schedule as planned, with games due to be played unless a club proves that they do not have enough players to fulfil the fixture.

Chelsea felt as though they met that threshold at the weekend when they requested for their match against Wolves to be postponed, only for the Premier League to reject that request and insist that the Blues play the game.

Thomas Tuchel was subsequently only able to name four outfield players and two goalkeepers on his bench at Molineux as he watched his Chelsea side lose more ground in the title race courtesy of a goalless stalemate.

Chelsea now sit six points adrift of leaders Manchester City following a blip which has seen them win just one of their last five games across all competitions, and only three of their last eight top-flight outings.

As one of only two teams to have fulfilled all 18 Premier League games as well as playing in Europe and reaching the EFL Cup quarter-finals amid the coronavirus crisis, Chelsea may view Wednesday’s game as an opportunity to rest some first-team players first and foremost, rather than a chance to reach the semi-finals of a major trophy.

Doing both would be the ideal scenario, and Tuchel will particularly not want any of his key men going all the way to penalties, as has happened in five of Chelsea’s last six League Cup games against Premier League opposition.

That includes both matches so far this year, with the European champions overcoming Aston Villa and Southampton via shootouts to set up this meeting with Brentford.

Tuchel’s side go into the game winless in their last three matches on the road, but in general their away form has been impressive this season, including a 1-0 win at the Brentford Community Stadium in the Premier League.

That result came in the middle of a five-game winless home streak for the Bees, but they have now won their last two in front of their own fans – most recently a 2-1 triumph over Watford on December 12.

Postponements against Manchester United and Southampton mean that that match against Watford was Brentford’s last outing home or away, and their own coronavirus situation remains uncertain given that they requested the Southampton game to be postponed just five days prior to Wednesday’s match due to rising cases within their squad.

With the exception of League One Sunderland, Brentford are the biggest underdogs left in this season’s competition, although the stats suggest that they should perhaps instead be regarded as the team to beat.

Thomas Frank’s men are the leading scorers in the EFL Cup this term with 12 from their three outings, thanks largely to a 7-0 drubbing of Oldham Athletic in the third round.

Brentford have only ever scored more League Cup goals in a single campaign once in their history – 15 in 1991-92 – with Forest Green Rovers and Stoke City having also been dispatched during a relatively kind route to the quarter-finals.

Chelsea represent by far their toughest challenge yet, but a first ever cup victory over their West London neighbours would put the Bees in the semi-final of this competition for the second successive season, having never reached the last four during their first 60 League Cup campaigns.

Brentford EFL Cup form:
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Brentford form (all competitions):
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Chelsea EFL Cup form:
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Chelsea form (all competitions):
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We say: Brentford 0-1 Chelsea
Uncertainty over what to expect from each team – and therefore each game – is likely to be a feature of the upcoming weeks, and it is particularly prevalent in this match with both clubs at different stages of a COVID outbreak.

Chelsea’s strength in depth is formidable, but even that is being stretched at the moment and Brentford may not get many better chances to get one over their neighbours, although they too are likely to be far from full strength.

We are backing the visitors to just about edge this one, but if they are to reach the semi-finals then they will need to overcome plenty of adversity en route.

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