Championship play-off final: Brentford and Fulham ready for richest game

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Brentford beat Fulham in the teams’ last meeting in June at Craven Cottage

Brentford will face Fulham on Tuesday for the chance to return to England’s top flight for the first time in 73 years – and earn around £ 160million in the process.

West London rivals, separated by just four miles, meet in the Championship play-off final at Wembley.

Fulham could seal an immediate return to the Premier League.

The victory in the game, often dubbed football’s richest match, would be worth £ 135million for Fulham and around £ 160million for Brentford over the next three years.

Brentford finished third in the table, one place above Fulham on goal difference, and won both league meetings during the regular campaign.

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

Historic promotion of free-flowing bee eyes

Brentford recorded eight straight wins on either side of the coronavirus lockdown to give themselves a chance at automatic promotion, but narrowly missed a place in the top two after losses in their last two games of the season.

Head coach Thomas Frank, who was appointed in October 2018, has shaped an attacking team that finished among the league’s top scorers this season.

Including their play-off semi-final victory over Swansea, their attacking line of Said Benrahma, Bryan Mbeumo and Ollie Watkins scored 59 goals between them – but the Bees also have the second-best defensive record in the division.

“We have big ambitions and big dreams,” Frank said. “We believe in ourselves but have to go to Wembley confident but humble. ”

The Bees have enjoyed their best campaign since relegation from the top flight in 1946-47 and will move to a new 17,500-seat stadium before next season.

Opponents Fulham spent 13 straight seasons in the top flight before falling back to the championship in 2014, and Slavisa Jokanovic led Craven Cottage squad to promotion through the play-off final two years ago.

“It’s a bigger club than us,” Frank said. “It’s not a mind game, it’s a fact.

“They were relegated from the Premier League last year and have the money in the parachute.

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

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

Parker revives Fulham’s fortune

Fulham lost their home semi-final game with Cardiff but moved on overall

When Scott Parker took over Fulham in February 2019, initially on an interim basis following the dismissal of Claudio Ranieri, the Whites were on their way to relegation from the Premier League.

He lost his first five games at the helm, and the club had suffered 27 losses and conceded 81 goals by the end of the top-level campaign.

“I realized this season was going to be a huge challenge for us,” Parker said.

“When the teams are relegated, there are big injuries, and we were in a difficult period.

“The biggest challenge was obviously to put in place a philosophy and to install a real identity in the field.

“It’s been a tough road this season because you can’t just have a magic wand to go from a weak mentality to fighting to win the division you’re in.

“I see a massive improvement from where we were, and a team that is progressing and resisting. “

Whites have Wembley experience, bees only have play-off issues

Fulham have their 1-0 win over Aston Villa at Wembley in 2018, with captain Tom Cairney and 26-goal striker Aleksandar Mitrovic among nine members of the Matchday’s squad remaining that day at Craven Cottage.

“We have guys who have been through it, who have been there with the pressure and who have done the job,” Fulham midfielder Harrison Reed said.

“We can certainly use this to our advantage. ”

However, Brentford captain Pontus Jansson believes the fact that the national stadium will be largely empty due to social distancing measures will level the playing field.

“If it was a complete Wembley it would be a little advantage for them,” said the Swedish center-back.

“I don’t see any benefit for them, even though they’ve been there before. It will be a normal corona match. ”

Brentford has never won a promotion in their previous eight play-off campaigns, losing three finals.

Two of those losses came at Wembley, the most recent being the Ligue 1 play-off final in 2012-13 – but there are no more survivors from that side in the Bees squad.

“I don’t know of any results in the past that Brentford has had in play-offs,” Jansson said.

“We have a lot of new players and none of those who have played in the playoffs with Brentford before.

“We’re just focusing on this one. It’s a game that lives its own life. “

Team news

Fulham striker Mitrovic has won the championship golden shoe this season, but the Serbian international missed both sets of the semi-final victory over Cardiff City with injury.

However, Parker says he has a fully fit squad for the final.

It remains to be seen whether Mitrovic and forward Neeskens Kebano, who was retired in the second leg against the Bluebirds with a hamstring problem, are fit enough to start.

Bee boss Frank chose a team that was largely established in the showdown, his biggest decision appearing to be a choice between Emiliano Marcondes and Josh Dasilva on who will start in midfield.

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