Brentford travel to Carrow Road firmly in the hunt for a top two spot in the Sky Bet Championship this season, having narrowly missed out on promotion the previous campaign.
Canaries.co.uk spoke to Billy Reeves, who covers the Bees for BBC Radio London, about their current form, what is expected from Thomas Frank’s side this season and who their key players will be today.
Canaries.co.uk: Brentford have suffered a bit since going top of the table in early February. What do you put that slump in results down to?
BR: Injuries. The relentless schedule; it’s the same for everyone but hopefully this is Brentford’s blip rather than a wobble. If the opposition can keep up an aggressive high press for 95 minutes without getting worn out that is the way to defeat the Bees, usually they can find a way to wear you down, recently they look somewhat sluggish.
Canaries.co.uk: Brentford have a reputation for such free-flowing attacking football, and they are top of the Championship table this season in terms of goals from open play. How much of a joy to watch have they been this campaign?
BR: A privilege as always. I'd argue that Bees fans have missed the most history with the final game at the old ground, play-off final, first at the new, League Cup semi-final. I am honoured to have been able to report on the home games this season.
Canaries.co.uk: Ivan Toney picked up an injury recently. How key has he been to Brentford this campaign and how much of a plus will it be to have him back at Carrow Road?
BR: He was a big miss in the rubbish performance up in Birmingham against Coventry. His deputy, also carrying an injury with concussion after that game (Marcus Forss) is a finisher, a poacher. Ivan can bring people into play, defend a near post at corners, and is a character on the pitch. And he is adept at the dark arts too which is something Brentford need to add to their recipe.
Canaries.co.uk: Pontus Jansson is also a player that has been out since late December through injury. How much has the side missed him and when is he likely to return?
BR: He is a leader, a shouter. He’s been trying to guide the defence from the sidelines at home games and is the loudest guy in the stadium. He is back after the international break, we understand.
Canaries.co.uk: Don Goodman described Brentford, prior to their victory over Reading, as the best side in the Championship and there will be many that agree with him. Is there an expectation this season that Thomas Frank has to get the club promoted this season because of this?
BR: Norwich City are the best team in the Championship, obviously. Brentford’s owner and directors of football are at the club to achieve promotion, not to make up the numbers, and then to thrive in the Premier League. Last season was perhaps a season too early. There is no pressure or expectation as there is at the traditional big clubs and former topflight sides, but behind the scenes the plan is to be promoted.
Canaries.co.uk: Ivan Toney is of course the player who is grabbing the headlines this season for Brentford, but who else has impressed you in the squad this campaign?
BR: Anyone that watches football is keen to make it look as though they know what they're talking about by praising the workhorse, a midfield general who works hard off the ball. Last season that was Christian Norgaard, he has missed much of the season with an injury but his deputy, the little-known German under-21 international Vitaly Janelt slipped into the 'number 6' role with apparent ease.
Canaries.co.uk: Brentford strengthened in January signing Saman Ghoddas and Winston Reid. What have you made of their performances so far?
BR: Ghoddos is improving hugely. He is playing left half, perhaps a little deeper than he played in France and still needs to learn about timing tackles at this level. Winston Reid is a rare thing, a loanee and a player in his 30s, but Bees are missing three centre halves with injury. He seems to be fully fit now and was man of the match in the recent victory against Sheffield Wednesday.