Brentford host an undefeated Liverpool side for the first time since 1983 on Saturday as the pair meet in the Premier League.
Thomas Frank made wholesale changes for his team’s thrashing of League Two Oldham Athletic in the League Cup on Tuesday but has scarcely altered his first-choice XI for top-flight duty. Ten players have started each of Brentford’s Premier League matches this season, earning the club a very healthy eight points from five games.
Here’s the familiar set up Frank may well turn to once again on Saturday afternoon.
David Raya (GK) – Fresh from hitting 100 of appearances for the club, Raya is nailed on to begin his next century with a busy afternoon against the only side to have hit triple digits for shots in the Premier League this season.
Kristoffer Ajer (CB) – As an early developer, Ajer used to be ‘two heads taller than the rest of the players on the field’ in his youth. Still with a decent height advantage, the former Celtic man has seamlessly adapted to life south of the border.
Pontus Jansson (CB) – As the ever-present captain of a defence that has conceded just two league goals and the second fewest expected goals (per FBref) in the division, Jansson’s long route to Premier League football – after consecutive play-off defeats – has been worth the wait.
Ethan Pinnock (CB) – As the recipient of collective and individual awards in the Isthmian League, National League, League One and the Championship, Brentford’s well-travelled 28-year-old hasn’t looked out of place at the top of England’s footballing pyramid.
Sergi Canos (RWB) – As the keenest presser in this front-footed Brentford side, Canos’ industry is as valuable as his class on the ball.
Vitaly Janelt (CM) – The poster boy for Brentford’s lauded player identification process, the indefatigable Janelt was spotted in Germany’s second tier and has scarcely been left out since.
Christian Norgaard (CM) – The commanding presence hoovering up across Brentford’s midfield is set to extend his record as the most frequently used player of Frank’s managerial career.
Frank Onyeka (CM) – Following three weeks away from the starting XI, Shandon Baptiste’s rash red card – even though his suspension has been served – may open up a return to the fold for Frank the Tank.
Rico Henry (LWB) – Jet-heeled and adept at fulfilling the ‘back’ aspect of his wing-back role, Frank aptly summarised his young talent’s approach to the game: “Rico only has either zero or 100 per cent. He can’t go in between.” Far more often than not, it’s the latter.
Bryan Mbeumo (ST) – Only one player in the Premier League has either taken or created as high a proportion of their team’s shots (41%) as Mbeumo this season – not so coincidentally, he happens to play alongside him.
Ivan Toney (ST) – For many players it would seem arrogant or delusional, but given the ease with which Toney toys with the Premier League’s centre-backs, describing his appearances in England’s top flight so far as ‘kickabouts’ is pretty apt.