Championship play-off final: Brentford and Fulham clash in football’s most valuable game

By Joe Richardson
August 4 2020, 12.30

Fulham and Brentford will compete for the biggest prize in football tonight as they battle it out for a place in the Premier League in the Championship play-off final. 

Separated by just four miles and by goal difference in the table, the stakes could not get much higher for the west London rivals.

The teams will kick off at 19:45 in a Wembley stadium that will be starved of a rip-roaring atmosphere in what is set to be a scintillating final.

Team news:

“Aleksandar Mitrovic is fit, so we will make our decision on him,” Fulham boss Scott Parker said.

“I have a full squad to pick from, so it is now down to me to work out the best dynamics to obviously try and win the football match.”

The return of the Championship’s Golden Boot winner will be a huge boost for Fulham after missing both semi-final legs against Cardiff due to a hamstring injury.

Neeskens Kebano limped off against Cardiff feeling his hamstring but is also confirmed fit having scored five in his last four appearances.

Bees boss Thomas Frank has chosen a largely settled side during the run-in, with his biggest decision seeming to be a choice between Emiliano Marcondes and Josh Dasilva over who will start in midfield.

Fulham aim to return with full force

Parker himself is no stranger to Wembley and captained England there eight years ago against Holland.

Now, in his first full season as head coach he is proud to be taking the club back once more.

“I am excited, there is an excitement about me and I am looking forward to the game and I am very proud,” Parker said.

“Of course I have been at the football club for a long time, as a player and now in my first full season of leading the club and the team to this point so I’m very proud.

“Ultimately how I look at it is very single-minded and very focused on what is ahead.

“It is another football match and my experiences have taught me that all the noise and everything else that comes with big games is exactly that – just noise.

“We have a real laser focus about us and understand the job at hand and what we need to do and I feel we are in a good place to do that.”

Brentford’s ‘BMW’ strike force of Said Benrahma, Bryan Mbeumo and Ollie Watkins have contributed 59 goals during the campaign, which is only five fewer than Parker’s whole team were able to manage.

“Going forward they are a real threat, we have seen that with the front three players scoring a lot of goals so of course we understand that,” Parker said.

“It’s amazing to think we get to the 49th game of the season and it comes down to a west London derby – it probably adds a little more,” Parker said.

At the weekend Bees midfielder Emiliano Marcondes insisted the Fulham players were afraid of them because they beat them in both fixtures in this season.

But Harrison Reed, on loan from Southampton, responded: “You can call us underdogs, you can call us favourites or call them favourites. It doesn’t really matter what has happened earlier on in the season.

“It is one game now. It is who turns up on the day and performs the best and we are full of confidence we can do that.”

Victory in the match, famously dubbed the richest game in football, would see Fulham pocket £135m and Brentford £160m over the next three years.

Bees will hope there is no sting in the tail

If they fail to win, the Bees will have taken part in more unsuccessful play-off campaigns in the English Football League than any other club, with this their ninth attempt.

Head coach Frank, who was appointed in October 2018, has moulded an attacking side which finished as the top scorers in the Championship this season.

He has formed a group of players who have big ambitions and big dreams. They believe in themselves and go to Wembley confident but humble.

“They are a bigger club than us, this is not a mind-game, this is a fact. They got relegated from the Premier League last year and have the parachute money,” Frank said.

“They have experience from the final two years ago and they have more experience in their squad to play a game like this than us.

“Yes, we beat them twice [this season] and that can maybe give us a bit of confidence. But the final is another story.”

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