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Can Liverpool’s defence cope with Toney – and Brentford’s “marmite” player?

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As Liverpool prepare to host Brentford on Sunday, we get the lowdown on the Bees ahead of their first league visit to Anfield since 1947!

Brentford currently sit 12th in the table in their first season in the Premier League, with two wins, a draw and three defeats in their last six league games.

Only a victory will do for the Reds this weekend, but their opponents showed what they are capable of in the 3-3 draw in the corresponding fixture early in the season.

Ahead of the match, we spoke to Billy Grant (@billythebee99) from Beesotted Brentford (@Beesotted) to hear all about the Bees’ season, Liverpool’s title credentials and lots more.

 

How would you assess Brentford’s season so far?

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 25, 2021: Brentford's Sergi Canós during the FA Premier League match between Brentford FC and Liverpool FC at the Brentford Community Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

We had a great start to the season but have dropped off somewhat due to various reasons. The 3-3 draw against Liverpool has been described by some Bees fans as the best live match they have ever been to.

Injuries took their toll earlier than expected – our sweeper-keeper David Raya got injured in October and our defence has really struggled since he’s been out.

There was a stat that came out showing Brentford were fourth-best in the Premier League in terms of goals conceded – around a goal per game – and second-best in terms of both expected goals conceded and expected goals saved when Raya was in goal.

Since he’s been injured we’ve dropped to 16th best in terms of goals conceded – nearly two goals per game – and 10th and 12th best in expected goals conceded and saved.

Other players injured have also contributed to our drip in form. Kristoffer Ajer – our record signing centre back – has also been out since October and we really missed his calming influence and ball-play.

Ivan Toney was out with Covid and hasn’t seemed the same since he returned; Left-back Rico Henry is still out; Sergi Canos looks like he’s pulled his hamstring again; centre-back Zanka is out for a while. The list goes on.

We’ve been really resilient despite the setbacks, though, and have managed to plug the dam, coming up with results when it counts like the last-minute winner against Watford and the slightly fortunate victory against Aston Villa.

If you wanted me to give our season an overall mark I would give 8/10 but we know we’re not out of the woods yet. If we don’t keep our head above water, that could easily become a 4/10 by the end of the season.

 

Do you think the Bees will avoid the drop?

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 25, 2021: Brentford's Ivan Toney (L) challenges for a header with Liverpool's Joel Matip during the FA Premier League match between Brentford FC and Liverpool FC at the Brentford Community Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Honestly, yes I do. And that isn’t rose-tinted glasses. I think we’ve done enough in the first half of the season to show that we can get results where it counts.

We know our fragilities and are working on it. We’re looking to sign a right wing-back, a left wing-back and a winger in this window, which is unusual for Brentford as we normally swerve it due to it being too expensive.

Someone told me that you need 38 points to pretty much guarantee staying up – we have 23 points so need another 15 in 18 games. I would be disappointed if we didn’t get there.

What is more important is next season, assuming we stay up. We have to strengthen sensibly.

We won’t go mad like other teams and spend money willy nilly. We know where our weaknesses are so the key is getting over the line this season so that we can address the issues in the summer to make us even more competitive next season.

 

Who have been Brentford’s three best players this season?

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 25, 2021: A general view of the Brentford Commnity Stadium before the FA Premier League match between Brentford FC and Liverpool FC. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Ajer has been brilliant, despite being out for half the season so far with injury. He is a key component to Brentford’s attack.

Christian Norgaard is such an intelligent player. When he is on his game, he runs the match from the middle of the park.

Ethan Pinnock has been solid as a rock as the back, too. It’s unbelievable that he was playing for Dulwich Hamlet in the Isthmian League only five seasons ago and now he’s playing six divisions higher in the Premier League.

 

Which individuals have struggled?

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK - Wednesday, July 16, 2014: Brondby IF's head coach Thomas Frank - now Brentford manager - during a preseason friendly match against Liverpool at Brøndby Stadion. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

We’re not in the business of panning our players – it’s not fair as it’s a huge step up to the Premier League from the Championship.

That being said, our second-choice goalkeeper Alvaro Fernandez has struggled at times with the step up.

To be fair, he was parachuted in with zero notice to replace Raya and he’s not Raya, so he’s had to learn quickly. He has made mistakes as all players do, but he’s also pulled off a number of great saves and is improving week on week.

An interesting shout will be to ask a Brentford fan about Mathias Jensen. He’s marmite amongst the fanbase, mainly because of his differing performances.

He has played against England in the European Championships semi-final for Denmark so he’s got some skills. On the Beesotted Pride Of West London podcast we often discuss whether Good Jensen or Bad Jensen turned up for each match.

There’s an argument to say if we’re under the cosh, you don’t want to throw Jensen into the mixer. Saying that, he may actually thrive playing against a team like Liverpool.

 

Turning our attention to Liverpool, how are you assessing their title chances?

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, January 2, 2022: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah during the FA Premier League match between Chelsea FC and Liverpool FC at Stamford Bridge. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

I think it’s tough with Liverpool dropping those points in December and Man City look like they’re in cruise control.

But rolling out the cliches, anything can happen and you just need to continue to pick up points.

Saying that – and that with all due respect to ourselves – you can’t really afford to drop points at home to Brentford if you are looking to beat City to the title.

 

What are you most looking forward to about the trip to Anfield?

Liverpool city centre River Mersey (PA Images)

I’m up on Friday with my daughter Bella and I’m looking forward to giving her a mini Liverpool city tour including a bit of Beatles – they were a bit before her time – a trip to the Albert Dock, including the slavery museum, and if we can fit it in, a ferry across the Mersey.

All very touristy, but it’s her first time in town.

Then after that, I’m looking forward to hanging out with Bees and Liverpool fans on Saturday night and before the match on Sunday for a few beers.

We have a mantra at Beesotted – #KickFootballOutOfFootball. So the game itself will be a bonus if we can get something out of it.

There are loads of Bees coming up for the weekend. We’ll treat this like one of our FA Cup matches back in the day when we were in the third tier and got matched up with First Division opposition, like when we did against Liverpool in 1989.

 

Apart from Salah, which Reds player would you most like to see at Brentford?

MILAN, ITALY - Tuesday, December 7, 2021: Liverpool's Sadio Mané looks dejected after missing a chance during the UEFA Champions League Group B Matchday 6 game between AC Milan and Liverpool FC at the Stadio San Siro. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

*Puts names in bag and pulls one out*

OK, we’ll take Sadio Mane. We’re desperate for speed in the side so he will do!

 

Where do you see the key battles taking place on Sunday?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, September 15, 2021: Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold during the UEFA Champions League Group B Matchday 1 game between Liverpool FC and AC Milan at Anfield. (Pic by Paul Currie/Propaganda)

If we can get behind your wing-backs then that will give us some excitement.

It will be interesting to see how your defenders deal with Toney this time out as he gave them a bit of a torrid time in the reverse fixture.

I’m excited to see Bryan Mbeumo let loose for a day running at your defenders, too.

He’s going to have a blinder this season against someone – why not Sunday?

 

Finally, what’s your prediction?

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 25, 2021: Liverpool's Andy Robertson during the FA Premier League match between Brentford FC and Liverpool FC at the Brentford Community Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

I predicted 1-1 on The Beesotted Pride of West London pre-match preview podcast.

We need bouncebackability and we’re actually quite good at that after a defeat, so who knows?

Billy Grant (@billythebee99) writes and podcasts for Beesotted (@Beesotted). You can catch their Liverpool preview podcast here.

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