The Championship play-off final… on a Tuesday night!?
That’s right, the 2019/20 iteration of the contest dubbed the ‘richest game in football’ is set to be done a little differently as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic completely altering scheduling.
Sure, having no fans will be weird, but a midweek Championship play-off final is just outright ludicrous!
Nevertheless, west London rivals Fulham and Brentford are set to do battle on the Wembley turf with a place in the Premier League and a sh*tload of wonga on the line. Thus, that poses the question here at 90min; what would a combined XI between the Cottagers and Bees look like in the Bizarro World?
Something like this, maybe?
After enjoying loan spells at Farnborough, Welling United, Accrington Stanley and Rotherham, Rodák finally earned his chance to impress for his parent club this term.
It was six years in the making and the former Slovenian youth international ensured he didn’t disappoint. 23-year-old Rodák was one of the standout shot-stoppers in the second tier and the early signs suggest he’s destined for a bright career.
The versatile Dane’s been fully converted into a steady and reliable right-back since his arrival from Zulte Waregem in 2017.
Dalsgaard’s been a fixture in Thomas Frank’s side this term, taking up greater leadership responsibilities and certainly enjoying the finest campaign of his career to date.
Sure, he may have only joined the club in January, but the impact Hector’s had on this Fulham defence has been profound.
Although Tim Ream has enjoyed a fine campaign under Scott Parker, there’s little doubting Fulham look much more assured of themselves with Hector partnering the ageing American.
The 28-year-old’s been the epitome of a journeyman, spending his 11-year senior career thus far at 19 (!) different clubs but he looks to have settled at Craven Cottage. Now, he’s just 90 minutes away from realising his dream of playing in the Premier League.
Pontus Jansson has also had himself a fine debut campaign in west London, but Pinnock’s certainly been superior to his Swedish skipper after breaking into Frank’s defence last November.
The 27-year-old’s been that immense since the restart that he was nominated for the PFA Fans’ Player of the Month award for both June and July.
The battle between the pair of Brentford centre-halves and Aleksandar Mitrovic at Wembley is set to be an enthralling one.
If Mitrovic wasn’t so bloody good at scoring goals, a seriously strong case could be made for Joe Bryan being Fulham’s Player of the Season. He’s been majestic, building off a respectable Premier League campaign.
Bryan’s seven assists lead all of the Cottagers squad alongside Ivan Cavaleiro, and he’s proven to be half decent at the old defending lark as well.
Shout out to Brentford’s Nico Henry, though, who’s also enjoyed a stellar season down the left flank.
16 goals. 7 assists. 20 years old. Brentford appear to have stumbled upon across an absolute star.
Just another example of the Bees’ ‘moneyball’ approach to recruitment paying dividends.
Sure, he’s not a headline-maker, but Nørgaard’s importance to Brentford just can’t be understated.
Deployed in the single-pivot of a midfield three, the Dane is given the responsibility of creating angles and opening up passing lanes to ensure his side progress through the first phase. While not necessarily a metronome, Nørgaard’s the man who ensures Frank’s possession-based ideals translate onto the field.
Following a dismal individual Premier League campaign in 2018/19, Cairney’s once again impressed at a level in which he appears much more comfortable.
While his eight goals and six assists weren’t quite enough to top his stellar 2016/17 season which saw him notch 23 goal contributions from midfield, Cairney’s nonetheless emerged as a key spoke in Scotty P’s wheel at Craven Cottage.
He’ll be out with a point to prove if his side earn promotion to the top flight for the second time in three years.
Despite possessing a skill set not too dissimilar from an archetypal attacking midfielder, the mightily gifted Algerian has been utilised on the left-wing as part of Frank’s 4-3-3 this season – often drifting infield to take up spaces in inside left positions and combine with Ollie Watkins.
Benrahma’s emerged as one of the Championship’s finest with his supreme technique and impressive production – he’s scored 17 league goals this term – and it certainly wouldn’t be a surprise to see the 24-year-old depart this summer even if the Bees were to earn promotion on Tuesday night.
A whole host of Premier League clubs are already chasing his signature.
The third piece in Brentford’s deadly attacking triumvirate, Watkins’ 25 strikes in the Championship placed him second in the goalscoring charts.
The 24-year-old’s transition to an out-and-out centre forward has been incredibly smooth, maintaining the attributes he established as a winger to evolve into a versatile, instinctive and intelligent forward.
He’s another who’s earned plenty of admirers from the top flight.
Mitrovic may have missed the semi-final triumph over Cardiff, but you can bet your bottom dollar he’ll shake off his hamstring issue in time for Tuesday night’s grand finale.
The brutish Serb continued his prolific record in the second-tier, as he led the Championship with 26 strikes in 40 appearances. Mitrovic’s ability to serve as the focal point in Parker’s 4-2-3-1 has been crucial for the Cottagers.