It has been a bruising few weeks for Chelsea as injuries and Covid-19 cases catch up with Thomas Tuchel's squad.
When The Blues beat Leicester City 3-0 on 20 November they sat four points clear at the top of the Premier League table with nine wins from their opening 12, including October's narrow 1-0 success at the Brentford Community Stadium. Fast forward 32 days and they have won just twice in the top flight since to fall six points off league leaders Manchester City.
Sunday's clean sheet against Wolverhampton Wanderers, in a game that Chelsea tried to get postponed due to a raft of positive Covid-19 cases, was their first in seven matches - their previous six outings bringing 12 goals for and 11 against.
There's been a symmetry to Chelsea's Carabao Cup run this term. In both previous ties, against Southampton and Aston Villa, The Blues have won 4-3 on penalties, following 1-1 draws at Stamford Bridge, with Reece James scoring the decisive penalty on both occasions.
Writing for Hot Off The Press football.london's Adam Newson, said: "One thing we know about Tuchel is that he will not deviate away from his three-man defence. Chelsea have used a trio of centre-backs since the German coach took charge in January and while there have been tweaks in the midfield and frontline, the defensive structure hasn't changed. There will be a decision needed on whether the Blues play with a front three or a two-man strikeforce but these are subtleties within a set system"
When asked ahead of last weekend's scheduled game against Southampton, Thomas Frank said he had the same squad as he had against Watford plus Ivan Toney and Sergi Canos. That means Zanka, Kris Ajer, Tariqe Fosu (all hamstring), David Raya, Julian Jeanvier (both knee), and Josh Dasilva (hip) are out.
Chelsea could only name six substitutes, including two goalkeeepers, on Sunday against Wolves due to injury and Covid-19 positives. From that squad, N'Golo Kante will not be involved tonight, Thomas Tuchel describing the decision forced upon him to play the French midfielder as 'close to irresponsible', with Andreas Christensen and Trevoh Chalobah also major doubts. Jorginho is back in contention after testing negative for Covid-19, but Kai Havertz, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Romelu Lukaku, Timo Werner, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ben Chilwell will all again be missing
Thomas Tuchel was a professional player who came through the academy at FC Augsburg before going pro with Stuttgarter Kickers. His time at SSV Ulm, and his career, was cut short by a knee cartilage injury at the age of 25.
Determined to stay in football, his coaching career began in the youth teams at VfB Stuttgart. After five years there, and a spell at Augsburg, he was hired as Head Coach by Mainz 05. He stabilised their stay in the Bundesliga during his five years in charge, earning praise for his energetic and attacking football. He was appointed to Borussia Dortmund in 2015, where he won the DFB-Pokal before leaving in 2017.
He joined Paris Saint-Germain in 2018, where he won two league titles and took the club to their first UEFA Champions League Final. He was dismissed in December 2020 and hired by Chelsea a month later. He won the Champions League Final with The Blues last May, defeating Man City 1-0.
THE LAST MEETING
Referee: Andre Marriner
Assistants: Ian Hussin and Timothy Wood
Fourth official: Graham Scott
186 fouls - Fifth-Most in Premier League
27 yellow cards - 14th in Premier League
1 red card - Fourth-Most in Premier League
Fans should arrive at the stadium one hour prior to kick-off as the game will also be the first Brentford fixture where the new, mandatory COVID rules will be in place which have been designed to keep fans safe and reassure those attending.
HOW TO FOLLOW
This evening's game is not being shown live in the UK and Ireland. The only way to follow away from the Brentford Community Stadium is with a Bees Player audio pass.
Joining Mark Burridge tonight will be former Brentford WFC captain Lisa Grant and Club Ambassador Marcus Gayle. Get your Bees Player pass here