After a fine start, Everton's season has stalled somewhat, not helped by a slew of injury and suspension issues at Goodison Park.
Rafael Benitez was nominated for the August Premier League Manager of the Month award after an unbeaten start in League and Cup. Seven games into the campaign, Everton were fifth, having lost just once in the Premier League. Since then they've taken just one point from their last five to slip down to 12th at the time of writing. They also exited the Carabao Cup on penalties to Sky Bet Championship side Queens Park Rangers.
Everton scored 13 times in their opening seven league games but have found the net just three times in their last five. Dominic Calvert-Lewin hasn't featured since August but is still The Toffees top scorer with three goals. At the other end of the pitch, Everton have conceded 11 goals in their last five since losing Yerry Mina to injury in October.
Only Arsenal and Watford (26) have used more players than Everton this season, with only four Everton players featuring in all 12 Premier League matches.
Everton have enjoyed just 39.4% possession this campaign, the third lowest mark in the top flight, and have made the league's most tackles per game (19.7)
When asked for Hot Off The Press, Sky Sports' Ben Grounds , said: "Everton have tended to play with a back four this season - at the time of writing, it was only against Burnley in the Premier League that Benitez opted to deploy a back three with wing-backs - but Calvert-Lewin’s injury has left the manager scratching around for the best way of providing the right balance further up the pitch. Townsend has recently adapted his role to accommodate the absence of a target man at the end of his crosses, and he could again operate more centrally, with Gray and Gordon occupying the wide berths. Allan (above) and Delph should retain their places in midfield. Everton certainly will have prepared a specific game plan having analysed the strengths of Thomas Frank’s side - most notably from dead ball situations - but Benitez will look to get across the message that it will be through personality and aggression rather than relying on any set system that is more likely to result in three points.
Wissa, Mathias Jensen, and Mads Bech are all available again but Zanka (hamstring) will likely miss out. Kris Ajer (hamstring), David Raya, Julian Jeanvier, Tariqe Fosu (all knee), and Josh Dasilva (hip) are the longer-term absentees.
Everton have a number of issues of their own. Abdoulaye Doucoure has returned to full training and could feature while Demarai Gray's availability will be assessed following his groin injury last weekend. Yerry Mina (hamstring), Dominic Calvert-Lewin (quad), Tom Davies (knee), and Andre Gomes (calf) are still out, while Mason Holgate and Richarlison are both suspended.
- Rico Henry has scored in consecutive Premier League matches for Brentford, having netted only twice in his first 120 league appearances for the Bees. Indeed, 33 per cent of his goals in English league football have come in the last two fixtures (2/6).
- No side have conceded more Premier League goals in the first half of matches this season than Brentford's 11, with the Bees letting in the highest share before half-time - 65 per cent. However, Everton have scored just four first-half goals this season, a total that exceeds only Aston Villa's total of three.
- Everton have won five of their last six Premier League matches in London (L1), as many as they had in their previous 32 visits to the capital in the competition.
- This is the first meeting between Brentford and Everton in any competition since September 2010, in a League Cup match. Following a 1-1 draw at Griffin Park, the Bees progressed 4-3 on penalties.
Rafa Benitez has a CV to envy, his former clubs include Valencia, Liverpool, Inter Milan, Chelsea, Napoli, Real Madrid, and Newcastle, and a trophy cabinet filled with two La Liga titles, one Champions League, two Europa Leagues, one FIFA Club World Cup, one FA Cup, one Italian Cup, one UEFA Super Cup and two Italian Super Cups.
The 61-year-old Spaniard had a short playing career as a defender before starting on the path to management. It was at Valencia that he first proved himself, winning two league titles in a division dominated by Real Madrid and FC Barcelona before moving to Liverpool. At Anfield, he masterminded the famous Istanbul Champions League Final comeback, also winning an FA Cup, Community Shield, and Super Cup. After six years on Merseyside, Benitez added a Club World Cup and Italian Super Cup with Juventus, a Europa League at Chelsea, and an Italian Cup and Super Cup at Napoli before joining Newcastle in March 2016.
He couldn't save The Magpies from relegation that season but led them to the Sky Bet Championship title the following year. He spent a further two years on Tyneside, and 18-months with Dalian Professional in China, before moving to Everton in the summer. In crossing Stanley Park, Benitez joined William Edward Barclay in the 1890s as the only men to manage both Liverpool and Everton.
THE OPPOSITION VIEW
Rafael Benitez told evertonfc.com: “They started with a lot of confidence, with intensity, playing well and got some points. Little by little, everybody knows you better, then it's more difficult to surprise anyone. But these kinds of teams have the advantage of working the same way for a while.
“They know exactly what the manager wants, and the players know each other really well. We are playing against a good team at their home but we have to compete with them and push them to get the three points.”
LAST TIME OUT
Referee: Darren England
Assistant Referees: Constantine Hatzidakis and Peter Kirkup
Fourth Official: John Brooks
VAR: Jonathan Moss
Assistant VAR: Marc Perry
109 fouls - 16th in Premier League
21 yellow card - 13th in Premier League
1 red cards - Joint-second most in Premier League
There are two trains per hours from Kew Bridge towards Feltham on Sunday with an additional service at 13:31 and another additional service at 16:00. There are two trains per hour from Kew Bridge towards London Waterloo.
In line with recent Premier League guidance, we will be conducting a limited number of COVID-19 status spot checks
Get to the ground early on matchday and enjoy big savings on food and drink inside the stadium.
HOW TO FOLLOW
Sunday's game is live on Super Sunday, kick-off 2pm, and around the world via the Premier League's broadcast partners.
Supporters can also join Mark Burridge, Karleigh Osborne, and Jonathan Douglas on Bees Player for live commentary.