Following 48 Championship matches, for West London rivals Brentford and Fulham it comes down to one 90-minute game to determine the success or failure of their season.
For Fulham and Scott Parker it is a chance to bounce straight back up, while for Brentford it is an opportunity for the Bees to play in the top-flight for the first time in 70 years.
This season was always going to be an emotional one for the Bees as it was going to be the final one at Griffin Park, which has been their home for 116 years.
Indeed, this campaign has certainly proved to be an eventful one for Tom Frank’s side. The first half of the season started off slowly but they did manage to secure an impressive 7-0 win over Luton Town at the end of November and they did also beat their play-off final opponents at Griffin Park back in December 1-0 thanks to a Bryan Mbeumo goal.
It was the Bee’s Championship restart form that ultimately proved the catalyst for their promotion charge. They once again managed to beat Fulham, this time 2-0 thanks to their Algerian superstar, Said Benrahma. They followed that result up with an impressive 1-0 win over Slavin Bilic’s West Brom, thanks to a goal from their striker, Ollie Watkins, who has managed 26 goals in all competitions this campaign and will be much sort after by Premier League clubs if Brentford do not go up this time around.
A further five victories in a row over Reading, Wigan, Charlton, Derby and Preston followed, which sparked talk not just a play-off spot but of automatic promotion. Tom Frank’s side, however, would suffer defeat in their final two matches against Stoke City and Barnsley, which ultimately ensured that they had to make do with a third place finish and a spot in the Play-Offs.
The Play-Offs for the Bee’s fans certainly strike both excitement and trepidation into their hearts.
One hard luck story in particular comes to mind for the West-London club took place seven years ago when they missed a late penalty against Doncaster Rovers in the 90thminute before Rovers would then break upfield to score and go up as League One Champions. Further heartbreak in the League One Play-off final at Wembley was to follow as Brentford lost 2-1 against Yeovil Town.
It has been, however, a case of so far so good for Tom Frank’s side as they managed to overcome Steve Cooper’s Swansea City team. Having lost the first leg 1-0 thanks to an Andre Ayew goal, the second leg and last game at Griffin Park saw a dramatic turnaround inspired by Ollie Watkins, who levelled the tie in the 11thminute of the match.
A header from Emiliano Marcondes followed which gave the London side the lead on the night and on aggregate before a volley from Mbeumo gave the hosts a two-goal cushion. On loan Rhian Brewster managed to pull a goal back for the Welsh side 12 minutes from time to produce a grand stand finish but the visitors ultimately were unable to find that all important goal to take the game to extra time.
For manager Scott Parker’s first season in charge of Fulham the task was simple, bounce straight back up. Easier said that done, the Cottagers, however, set about this in impressive fashion. Although they started off with an opening day 1-0 loss to Barnsley, they managed to produce strong league performances particularly in November when they won four and lost just once.
The lockdown, however, did not come at a good time for the London club as they had just come off two straight wins against promotion rivals Swansea City and Preston and secured a 1-1 draw at Bristol City.
Indeed, the restart subsequently witnessed the Cottagers loose against Brentford and Leeds United before recapturing some of their form from November by winning against the likes of Nottingham Forest and Cardiff City and they also emerged on the right end of a 5-3 score line against Sheffield Wednesday thanks to two goals each from Neekaens Kebano and top scorer Aleksandar Mitrovic.
That result ensured that they would feature in the play-offs and following a 1-1 draw with Wigan they knew they would be up against Welsh side Cardiff City in the Semi-finals.
The Cottagers secured a crucial 2-0 victory in the first leg thanks to a superb individual effort from midfielder Josh Onomah and just before the end Kebano curled in a wonderful free kick.
The second-leg at Craven Cottage saw Fulham ultimately progress to the final at Wembley despite a 2-1 loss and additionally they had to do it without their main man, Mitrovic. The Welsh side got off to the dream start and they were able to demonstrate their impressive ability from set pieces. A powerful header from Curtis Nelson made it 1-0 before just 30 seconds later Kebano was able to convert an Anthony Knockaert cross.
Cardiff’s Lee Tomlin restored his side’s advantage on the night just after half time and ensured a tense 40 minutes for The Whites. Parker’s team, however, were able to hold out to ensure that they made it to Wembley for the second time in three years.
Indeed, the Whites certainly have fond recent memories when it comes to the Championship play-offs having beat Aston Villa in the 2018 play-off final 1-0 thanks to a goal from their captain, Tom Cairney.
Brentford have no fresh injury concerns ahead of the Play-Off Final.
Fulham’s top scorer Aleksandar Mitrovic has managed to overcome a hamstring strain, which kept him out of the semi-final victory over Cardiff. While Harry Arter and Ivan Cavaleiro will also be available meaning that Parker will have a fully fit squad to choose from.
How to watch
The match will be shown live on Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Football and is scheduled for a 7:45pm kick-off on Tuesday 4th August. Coverage begins from 7pm. The match will take place behind closed doors at Wembley Stadium.
Only four and half miles separate the sides and only goal difference divided them in the regular season. Tom Frank’s Bees, however, have held the edge over Fulham in their two league encounters this campaign and fancy them to get the job done at Wembley.
Score Prediction: Brentford 2-1 Fulham