Sheffield United: In Focus - Friday's opponents Brentford

Brentford boss Dean Smith
Brentford boss Dean Smith
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The meeting between the two sides at Griffin Park on Friday is yet another crucial game for the Blades in the hunt for a play-off spot. It is the same for Brentford who know they have to win to give themselves a realistic chance of catching the top six.

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The Easter fixtures are always a staging post in the season with teams capable of putting themselves in a position of strength or seeing their season begin to disintegrate.

Manager

Former Owl Dean Smith worked in coaching roles after retirement before being handed his first managerial position. After taking the assistant manager job at Leyton Orient he became head of youth at Wallsall. It was with the Saddlers he was given his first leading role, taking the side to their first Wembley Stadium appearance in the Football League trophy.

His experience in the different jobs set him up for the head coach role at Brentford who are somewhat unique in the Championship. He has provided a steady hand, helping the Bees consolidate in the division despite having one of the league's smaller budgets. Smith and his assistants signed a contract extension last month.

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One to watch

Last season's Football League Young Player of the Year, Ollie Watkins has continued his progress after making the summer move from Exeter City. He has made the jump from the fourth tier to the top tier appear seamless. The 22-year-old has followed up 13 league goals and 10 assists with 11 Championship strikes and five assists. Impressive numbers for a left-winger. Brentford funnel a lot of their attacking play through Watkins who likes to take opponents on and get the ball into the box.

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Formation

Brentford rarely, if ever, play with a front two, opting for a 4-3-3 variation. Mostly it is a 4-2-3-1 with Nico Yennaris and Ryan Woods building play from the base of the midfield as the Bees look to control the game in the opposition's half. The team attempt to get their wide men involved often and are dangerous from set pieces. The way they play and set up can lead them to being susceptible at the back.

Injury table

Brentford's international contingent returned to the club unscathed. However, Andreas Bjelland misses out with a calf injury, joining long term absentees Rico Henry and Romaine Sawyers.

Previous meeting

The Blades emerged with a 1-0 win at Bramall Lane in the opening match of the season. Leon Clarke set up Billy Sharp to get Chris Wilder's men up and running for the start of the season, although Smith feels Brentford should at least got a draw from the game.

Form

One win in five has seen Brentford's play-off hopes drop to a long-shot. They've also only won one of their last five at Griffin Park, albeit a 5-0 thumping of Birmingham City.

Stats

Brentford have the highest percentage of possession in the Championship (56.4 per cent) but they do try and be positive with it, topping the league for through passes, key passes (which lead to a shot) and passes into the final third.

What the manager is saying

“It’s a big period for us because of the teams that we are playing against," said Smith. "We have got to a stage now where they are must-win games for us. We have been playing catch up since the first eight games of the season and we have worked really hard to catch up. What we don’t want to do is to fail miserably over this weekend so we will go all-out to win these games."

Odds

Brentford Evens, draw 5/2, Sheffield United 13/5 (Bet365)