Brentford host a top-flight game against Fulham for the first time on Monday.
Both sides are enjoying fine starts to 2023 with sixth-placed Fulham unbeaten in seven, while the Bees haven’t tasted defeat in 11 Premier League games stretching back to October.
Get all the west London derby build-up below.
Fulham flying high following top-flight return
As they had been two years earlier, Fulham were promoted to the Premier League at the first time of asking last season.
This time, though, they won the Championship in devastating style.
Marco Silva’s men absolutely breezed their way through the division. On three occasions they scored seven, in two games they hit six and there were two five-haul hauls, just for good measure.
With talismanic frontman Aleksandar Mitrovic setting a new, seemingly unassailable, second-tier scoring record of 43, promotion never once looked in doubt.
As they geared up for their return, outside talk centred on whether they could learn from costly mistakes made in years gone by.
In 2018/19, Fulham spent freely but came up short, while in 2020/21, they employed a more conservative approach and racked up just five wins all season.
Though they came back into the Premier League on cloud nine, it felt as though the success of the Cottagers’ season would hinge largely on whether they could harness the powers of Mitrovic in the top flight once and for all.
The Serb had proved himself in the Championship numerous times but had hit an unremarkable tally of 14 goals in 64 appearances across his last two seasons in the top division and, as a result, had doubters to win over.
As it transpired, there was no need to worry, even though Silva had said his team were “not ready” for the season days before it began.
Nor was there any reason to tar Mitrovic with the ‘too good for the Championship; not good enough for the Premier League’ brush.
Mitrovic scored a brace as Liverpool twice came from behind to earn a point at Craven Cottage on the opening day and had hit six goals in six games by the start of September, when Fulham were sat 10th after two wins, two draws and two defeats.
The striker had netted nine goals in 12 appearances before the break for the World Cup, despite struggling with an ankle injury in the lead-up to the tournament in Qatar.
And if you thought Fulham had been impressive before the World Cup, they have, arguably, been even better since domestic football returned on Boxing Day.
They got back underway with four straight league wins and battled against Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur, before coming out on the wrong side of two successive narrow 1-0 defeats.
In February, they took eight points from the 12 on offer and progressed to the fifth round of the FA Cup for only the second time since 2016/17 after overcoming Sunderland in a thrilling fourth-round replay.
Sitting sixth at the time of writing, with 39 points – the most of any newly promoted team after 25 points since Wigan Athletic in 2005/06 – Fulham are now not only in a prime position for a first top-10 finish since 2011/12, but candidates for a place in Europe, particularly with usual suspects Chelsea and Liverpool stumbling.
With the initial aim of survival pretty much already in the bag, it’s easy to see why Whites fans are now dreaming of more.
Brentford duo in contention, while Fulham's Palhinha will miss out due to suspension
Frank Onyeka and Pontus Jansson are both in contention for Monday’s match.
The pair haven’t featured in 2023 due to respective hamstring injuries but could return for the visit of Fulham. Thomas Strakosha (ankle) is not yet back to fitness.
Influential midfielder Palhinha will be suspended for Fulham, joining the injured Layvin Kurzawa, Tom Cairney and Neeskens Kebano on the absentee list.
In positive news for Fulham, Aleksandar Mitrovic came through 70 minutes on Tuesday in their FA Cup win over Leeds United after recovering from a hamstring injury.
With Peter Rutzler, Fulham reporter for The Athletic
“Marco Silva has set up the same way in pretty much every match that he has taken charge of at Fulham.
“He plays a 4-3-3 system with a midfield three that have slightly different roles.
“They have a no.6 - a classic defensive midfielder - which has been Palhinha. A no.8, box-to-box player, is on the right of the three, with Andreas Pereira to the left.
“Pereira has been fantastic. He is a hugely important creative influence, though he is slightly more advanced as he plays closer to the striker.
“Fulham like to get the ball down and play, but they are not averse to going direct and that variation makes them difficult for teams to play against.”
Read the full interview with Peter Rutzler
Playmaker provide the key numbers behind Monday night’s clash
9 Only Manchester United (11) have scored more goals in the last 15 mins of games (76-90+) than Brentford (9)
11 Brentford are on the longest current unbeaten run in the Premier League - the Bees have gone 11 games without defeat
5 Brentford are joint-top for most penalties scored (5, level with Man City)
399 Brentford rank top for most aerial duels won (399)
8 Only Newcastle United (12), Arsenal and Manchester United (both 10) and Tottenham Hotspur (9) have kept more clean sheets than Brentford (8)
13 Only Manchester City (+28), Manchester United (+16) and Liverpool (+16) have a better goal difference at home than Brentford (+13). Leaders Arsenal are also on (+13)
8 Only Tottenham Hotspur (12) and Fulham (11) have scored more headed goals than the Bees (8)
14Ivan Toney is 3rd in the Golden Boot race with 14 goals (joint with Marcus Rashford). Only Erling Haaland (27) and Harry Kane (18) have more
84 Ben Mee (84) is joint top with Aleksandar Mitrovic for most aerial duels won this term, with Toney third (73)
89 Only Harry Kane (89) and Haaland (83) have had more shots than Mitrovic (89)
132 Ethan Pinnock is second for most clearances completed (132), only behind Joachim Andersen (136)
60 Only Kieran Trippier (92) has completed more accurate crosses than Andreas Pereira (60)
54 Andreas Pereira (54) is also 4th for most key passes. Only Kevin De Bruyne (75), Kieran Trippier (70) and Bruno Fernandes (68) have more
In the Dugout
Marco Silva played for a variety of Portuguese clubs, predominantly in the second and third divisions, before finishing his career with a six-year spell at Estoril.
He was appointed director of football at Estoril in June 2011, however, early into the season, he became manager and helped the club return to the top flight after winning the second tier.
This was followed by qualification for the Europa League in the subsequent two seasons after their promotion, which saw Silva attract the attention of divisional rivals Sporting Lisbon.
He won the Portuguese Cup during his only season with Sporting before moving across the continent to join Greek side Olympiacos.
Silva won the Super League in 2015/16 and left at the end of that season.
He then spent several years in England as head coach of Hull City, Watford, Everton and Fulham, who he led to promotion to the Premier League at the first time of asking.
Fulham 3 Brentford 2 (20 August 2022)
Aleksandar Mitrovic scored an 88th-minute goal to settle a pulsating west London derby and hand Brentford their first defeat of the campaign.
It was the fifth goal scored on an afternoon that saw the Bees fight back from two goals down to level.
Thomas Frank's side also had two goals disallowed before they were eventually beaten.
Anthony Taylor set for fifth Brentford assignment
Referee: Anthony Taylor
Assistant referees: Gary Beswick and Lee Betts
Fourth official: Stuart Attwell
Video assistant referee: Craig Pawson
Additional video assistant referee: Ian Hussin
Anthony Taylor will take charge of his fifth Brentford game this weekend, with the Bees registering 3-1 wins in three of the previous four with him in charge.
It's been a steady journey for the Lancashire FA Official from the Northern Premier League to the top of the international game.
Manchester-born Taylor joined the ranks of EFL officials in 2006 before progressing to the Select Group 1 of top-flight officials for the 2010/11 season.
It was during those four years in the EFL that Taylor took charge of his first two Brentford games; both of which ended in 3-1 wins for Andy Scott's side, at Wrexham in December 2007 and at Shrewsbury in January 2009.
Between 2015 and 2018, Taylor took charge of a showpiece Wembley final every season and became the first man since Arthur Kingscott in 1901 to referee multiple FA Cup finals when he oversaw Arsenal's 2-1 victory against Chelsea in May 2020.
At international level, Taylor has refereed the 2015 under-19 European Championship final, the 2020/21 UEFA Super Cup, the 2020/21 Nations League final, and last month’s FIFA Club World Cup final between Real Madrid and Al-Hilal.
Last season, Taylor took charge of Brentford’s 1-0 defeat to Chelsea in October and March’s 3-1 win at Norwich City.
262 fouls – 10th in Premier League
61 yellow cards – most in Premier League
1 red card – sixth in Premier League