Different stages

Although there are certain differences in terms of stature, history and fanbase between Brentford and Birmingham City, there are even bigger differences between them in terms of their development as clubs.

Brentford, with a general history of being in the third and fourth divisions, have spent the whole decade working steadily towards this point: the crescendo moment where they are making the jump from being a pretty, likeable midtable outfit in the second-tier to, potentially, a serious Championship force.

By contrast, Birmingham have not played in the third-tier since 1995, but they have had their close shaves, fearing relegation at certain points in five of their last six seasons.

Brentford have had a clear playing identity for years and Thomas Frank is now adding the final touches to make them stronger and more adaptable.

By contrast, the instability at Blues has made it difficult to develop a coherent strategy; Gary Rowett and Garry Monk came closest but for various reasons, left their jobs without a satisfying sense of closure.

Monk is replaced by ‘interim’ head coach Pep Clotet, who plans to evolve the style of play – but the process is unlikely to be straight-forward, at least in August.


Tough start for Blues

Monk’s strategy had been high-pressing, swift transitions in the opposing half and long balls to Lukas Jutkiewicz from deep – partly due to the restrictions he faced in the transfer market.

To move towards a possession-based 3-4-2-1 system, Clotet must teach some of the existing players to think differently about how they play and change the personnel – that means every Blues player is now either learning something new, or adapting to a new club and location, meaning this is very much a transitional period.

The arrival of Dan Crowley, a creative technician who starred for Willem II last term, is positive news, as is the capture of Croatia Under-21s skipper Ivan Sunjic plus a loan deal for Jake Clarke-Salter.

However, it would be naïve to expect these new players to integrate straight away so Clotet’s men may endure some teething problems in West London.


Bulked up Brentford

We can expect Brentford to be tough defensively.

Julian Jeanvier made a huge impact when he came into the defence in December last season, while Pontus Jansson and Ethan Pinnock – two of the best-performing centre-backs in the EFL last season – should have few problems dealing with Lukas Jutkiewicz.

Kamohelo Mokotjo’s summer progress has been delayed by international duty, which hands the perfect opportunity for the athletic Josh Dasilva to strike-up a strong midfield pairing with the more technical Christian Nørgaard.

Although key men Neal Maupay and Saïd Benrahma may not be ready having been linked with moves away, Marcus Forss up top has looked very sharp in pre-season, while the Bees still possess wide forwards in sparkling Spaniard Sergi Canos and finisher Ollie Watkins.

Brentford should be backed to secure an opening day win, even at odds-on quotes.

Tip: Brentford to win


Read Gabriel’s League One Opening Day preview.

Odds are correct at the time of posting

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