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Brentford vs Fulham preview: Championship play-off final

The Sky Bet Championship play-off final is upon us, with Brentford and Fulham facing each other for a place in the Premier League and an estimated £160million windfall.

An almighty 368 days since the season began, the curtain will finally fall at Wembley Stadium on Tuesday night as the west London rivals meet. For Fulham, they are attempting to return to the top flight at the first time of asking, having been relegated last season. Brentford, meanwhile, are chasing a place in the Premier League for the first time, and a first top-flight season since 1947.

Even without fans it is set to be a cracking clash at the home of football, as two of the most entertaining teams in the Championship meet. Here's all you need to know ahead of the game, including how to watch, who are the key players, team news, and exclusive interviews...

The BMW driving Brentford towards glory

Said Benrahma, Bryan Mbeumo and Ollie Watkins have played a significant part in Brentford's push for promotion from the Premier League this season.

Owing to their extremely successful relationship, the trio have scored 58 goals between them ahead of Tuesday's Championship play-off final with Watkins missing out on the Golden Boot - which was won by Aleksandar Mitrovic - by a single strike.

Tom Cairney: Fulham's Wembley hero craving another triumph

"That was the best day of my career. Everything about it was perfect: the weather, the pitch, the way we played - especially in the first half - and scoring the winner and lifting the trophy. You couldn't really write it."

Team news

Brentford manager Thomas Frank has no fresh injury concerns.

Fulham will have talisman Aleksandar Mitrovic fit for the final. The 26-goal striker has recovered from a hamstring injury which saw him miss the ties with Cardiff.

Boss Scott Parker confirmed the Whites have a fully-fit squad to choose from. It means Harry Arter and Ivan Cavaleiro will be available after they missed the second leg against the Bluebirds due to knocks.

The £160m game

Brentford stand to earn around £160million over three years in additional revenue if they beat Fulham, according to sports financial analysts Deloitte.

The game remains the most valuable single match in world football, as it brings with it the prize of Premier League football and access to the television money afforded to top-flight clubs.

Deloitte say that if the Bees were to survive their first season the additional revenue would rise to £265m over five years.

Fulham would receive around £135m over three years if they beat their fellow west Londoners, a reduced amount because they are currently in receipt of parachute payments after their relegation to the Championship in 2019.

Ninth-time lucky for Brentford?

Since the 1990/91 season, Brentford have lost in all eight of their play-off campaigns.

It's an unwanted statistic that has lingered over the west London club for decades, but after overcoming Swansea in the semi-finals, Thomas Frank's men have the chance to set the record straight and banish the streak to the history books.

Jokanovic: How to win the play-off final

"I remember asking someone on the bench how many seconds were left," former Fulham boss Slavisa Jokanovic - who led the club to play-off final glory in 2018 - tells Sky Sports. "That is all I can really recall of the final moments. Just counting the seconds down to the final whistle.

"Normally, my expression when I am satisfied and when I am sad is more or less the same. But this moment was different. I tried to be polite. I tried to be politically correct and find Steve Bruce to shake his hand. But after that I just soaked in the moment."

Pre-match stats

Fulham have reached the Championship play-off final for the second time in the last three seasons, also beating Aston Villa 1-0 at Wembley in 2018 thanks to a Tom Cairney winner.

This will be Brentford's fourth play-off final and first since 2013 when in the third tier (1-2 defeat by Yeovil). Indeed, the Bees have lost each of their three play-off final matches and should they fail to gain promotion once more, they will have taken part in more unsuccessful play-off campaigns than any other side (currently 8, level with Sheff Utd).

Brentford are currently unbeaten in five games against Fulham (W3 D2) and have only suffered one defeat in the last 10 clashes between the sides (W6 D3).

Fulham have lost as many games against Brentford in their last four meetings (3) as they did in the previous 12 matches beforehand (W5 D4 L3).

Fulham have lost two of their three matches in all competitions at Wembley (beating Aston Villa in the 2018 play-off final), losing 0-2 to West Ham in the 1975 FA Cup final before a 1-3 defeat against Spurs in the Premier League.

Among sides to have lost 100% of their games at Wembley, no team have played at the venue more often than Brentford (5, joint-most with Shrewsbury Town).

Prutton's prediction

What a final we have in store! Cardiff and Swansea both put up a great fight in the semis but over the course of the season I think it's fair to say we've got the two best teams we could have got in the play-off final.

The differences in the way they reached the final were stark. Brentford looked elated on Wednesday night after coming back to beat Swansea, while Fulham looked simply relieved to have got past Cardiff a day later. Normally you get a good chunk of time to get over the semis and recover for the final, but both managers will have had to perform a fine balance act between rest, recuperation and preparation for Wembley.

Brentford won both meetings this season, and have only lost once in the league to Fulham in their last 10 meetings. They played each other in the first game following the restart, and the Bees nicked it at Craven Cottage with two extremely late goals.

The final is a different kettle of fish. Again, it's a shame there are no fans there, but the other two play-off finals we saw suggest it may actually make for a better game of football. It will certainly suit two sides who like to get the ball down and play as there may be a few less nerves.

You can't knock Fulham and Scott Parker for what they have done. All the talk was that perhaps with the squad they should have been doing better and challenging for automatic promotion, but getting a squad to bounce back from relegation at the first time of asking is tough. The record shows that.

Brentford, meanwhile, are seeking a spot in the Premier League for the first time; something that seemed a million miles away from this club not too long ago. It would be an incredible achievement from Thomas Frank and his men.

I think there will be goals. And I think it will be close. I do, however, just about have to back Brentford to edge it.

David Prutton predicts: Brentford to win 3-2.

Source: Sky Sports

 

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