The business end of the 2021/22 season begins this weekend, with the final international break of the campaign ending this week. Gameweek 31 of the Premier League term kicks off on Saturday, with Chelsea taking the field on the day, playing hosts to Brentford at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea’s Premier League campaign might have petered out midway through the season when they dropped points for fun. But the Blues have done well to win the FIFA Club World Cup while making it to the Carabao Cup final. Since late January, Thomas Tuchel’s men have not faced defeat in regulation and are currently on a six-game winning run despite off-field turmoil.
On the other hand, Brentford’s strong start to their maiden Premier League campaign has paved the way for a poor patch of form. The Bees have steadily dropped down the table, although relegation appears unlikely, with 18th-placed Watford eight points behind them. Thomas Frank’s charges come into the game on the back of a 2-1 defeat to Leicester City and will hope to return to winning ways against Chelsea.
Chelsea eked out a hard-fought 1-0 win over Brentford in the reverse fixture while beating the Bees 2-0 in their most recent clash in the Carabao Cup quarter-final. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Join Thomas Tuchel live as he looks ahead to our game with Brentford tomorrow! 🎙 https://t.co/wJUXPxRiiJ
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) April 1, 2022
Thomas Tuchel has been handed a major boost on the team news front ahead of the visit of Brentford. On Saturday, the Chelsea boss will be bereft of the services of only three first-team players in the worst-case scenario.
The good news is that Reece James and Andreas Christensen have regained fitness, resuming full training this week. But Callum Hudson-Odoi has been deemed unfit to take on Brentford despite participating in practice sessions. The Chelsea academy product remains on the sidelines along with long-term absentee Ben Chilwell.
Christian Pulisic could be the third absentee for Chelsea. While the American forward is not unfit, he could be rested after returning late from international duty with the USMNT as he is experiencing jetlag.
Pulisic will thus miss out on the starting eleven against Brentford and will return to contention for the UEFA Champions League quarter-final first leg against Real Madrid next week. In Pulisic’s stead, Timo Werner could get a chance to impress from the left flank, with Mason Mount starting on the opposite wing.
Mount will be the creative supremo for Chelsea, especially with Tuchel likely to prefer a 4-3-3 formation against Brentford. That is because Reece James could get an extended break to regain full sharpness ahead of the crucial Champions League clash against Real Madrid.
In James’s absence, Cesar Azpilicueta will take up the right-back slot, with Marcos Alonso starting on the opposite flank. With Tuchel likely to adopt the same approach with Andreas Christensen as with James, Thiago Silva and Antonio Rudiger should pair up at the heart of the Chelsea defence.
As for the midfield unit, a safety-first approach will mean N’Golo Kante, Jorginho, and Mateo Kovacic will form the trifecta. That said, Kante and Kovacic will have the license to foray forward, with the former providing a creative impetus with his long searching passes. Finally, Kai Havertz will spearhead the Chelsea attack, while Edouard Mendy will be stationed between the sticks.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Mendy; Azpilicueta, Silva, Rudiger, Alonso; Kante, Jorginho, Kovacic; Mount, Havertz, Werner
Unlike his counterpart in the Chelsea dugout, Thomas Frank does not have any player returning from injury or illness. But much like Thomas Tuchel, the Brentford boss will be without three first-team players ahead of the trip to Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
Due to a long-term hamstring injury, Joshua Dasilva remains unavailable, while Julian Jeanvier is on the sidelines due to a knee issue. Saman Ghoddos is the final absentee for Brentford, with the 28-year-old recovering from an illness.
💬 Team News
— Brentford FC (@BrentfordFC) April 1, 2022
Frank recently ditched his previously preferred 3-5-2 formation to switch to a 4-5-1, and the current setup should be the system in place against Chelsea. David Raya will be the man in the Brentford goal, with the Spaniard likely to be in high spirits after making his international debut during the international break.
Kristoffer Ajer has lined up as a right-back lately, and the Norwegian defender will reprise the same role against Chelsea. Ajer will form a hybrid back-three depending on the game’s phase, with Pontus Jansson and Ethan Pinnock being the centre-backs. Rico Henry will start as the left-back but get the license to take up advanced positions when the opportunities present themselves.
Christian Eriksen is returning from a memorable international break, and the Dane will be the creator-in-chief for Brentford. Christian Norgaard and Mathias Jensen will complete an all-Danish central midfield unit, with the duo taking care of the defensive side of things in the middle of the park.
Bryan Mbuemo and Yoane Wissa will be the two wide men, and the duo will man the central areas during Brentford’s attacking phases. Ivan Toney will spearhead the attack against Chelsea, with the 26-year-old creating space by dropping deep to harry the opposition midfielders.
Probable Lineup (4-5-1): Raya; Ajer, Jansson, Pinnock, Henry; Mbuemo, Jensen, Norgaard, Eriksen, Wissa; Toney
Chelsea are unbeaten in their last eight meetings with Brentford in all competitions (W7 D1) since a 3-1 loss at home in February 1939.
Chelsea have won six of their seven Premier League London derbies this season, except a 3-2 loss at West Ham. That defeat accounts for all goals conceded in London derby matches for the Blues this season.
Chelsea have won their last five Premier League games, last winning more matches in a row between September and November 2019 (6).
Brentford kept two clean sheets and let in just one goal in their first three Premier League away games but have conceded in each of their last 12 on their travels – the longest current run without a clean sheet on the road in the competition.
Kai Havertz has scored four goals in his previous three Premier League games for Chelsea, as many as he had in his last 21. The German is looking to score in four consecutive league games for the first time since a run of five between April and August 2019 with Bayer Leverkusen.
Player to Watch
Jorginho is coming off a painful international break as his wait for a maiden FIFA World Cup outing excruciatingly continues. The Italian international will be desperate to bounce back from the disappointment of failing to qualify for Qatar 2022 with a strong end to the Chelsea campaign.
The onus will thus be on Jorginho to start dictating the play of games efficiently, considering his levels have dropped slightly in the past month. The 30-year-old will be fresh after returning early from Italy duty, and Thomas Tuchel will be egging the Chelsea vice-captain to get back to his best ahead of the big game against Real Madrid.
Chelsea 2-0 Brentford
The game on Saturday pits two teams with staggeringly different setups against each other. Chelsea will aim to control the proceedings, with Brentford sitting deep while attempting to hit the hosts on the counter-attack.
The match will also witness the team that has scored the most goals from outside the box in the Premier League this season (Chelsea, eight) against the side that has conceded more strikes from distance than any other (ten). Chelsea will aim to test David Raya from range, although the in-form Kai Havertz should make the difference, delivering a hard-fought 2-0 win over Brentford.