Thomas Frank has roused his players before Reds test, and the Nigerian will look to heed his manager’s words on Saturday
Every home game for Brentford this season is momentous, but Saturday carries an extra significance with Liverpool set to visit the Brentford Community Stadium.
It is only the Bees’ third ever Premier League home clash and, having faced Arsenal in their opening day encounter, play another traditional English side this weekend. Admittedly, the understrength Gunners were there for the taking in August’s meeting, but Jurgen Klopp’s Reds pose an obviously different test.
Supporters were expectedly raucous in that 2-0 success and a repeat atmosphere is expected on Saturday when they play the six-time European champions for the first time since 1947.
Thomas Frank wants his team to feed off their energy and has declared that every Bee will give everything on the pitch.
“[The fans] need to perform unbelievably and overmatch the performance against Arsenal,” the Brentford boss asserted in his pre-match press conference. “Against Arsenal, they were from a different universe and if they do that then, I promise, we will give everything on the grass.
“The pressure is off. We have a balanced squad that is confident but humble. We will go into the game with fire in our eyes and a smile on our face to attack and probably defend a lot as well,” he added. “We are looking forward to the challenge.”
Frank gave a big hint into his possible line-up for the encounter, revealing 10 of the starters from that impressive 2-0 success at Wolverhampton Wanderers will retain their spots in the side.
“I need to find the last one,” he acknowledged.
Having had to make appearances off the bench in the last two Premier League games, Frank Onyeka will welcome a recall for another meeting with the Reds. The former Midtjylland midfielder faced off with Klopp’s men in last season’s Champions League, picking up a point from an available six from both encounters.
Despite being the underdog on Saturday, the Nigerian will strive to be third-time lucky, nonetheless.
Onyeka’s place in the team had been taken by Shandon Baptiste, who missed out against Oldham Athletic on Tuesday through suspension. The Grenada international hasn’t particularly pulled up trees in those outings following the West African’s return after contracting coronavirus and the summer arrival ought to feel positive about his chances of reclaiming his spot on Saturday.
Marcus Forss palpably stole the show with his four goals in their EFL Cup thrashing of Oldham in midweek, but Onyeka was one of Brentford’s top performers in the 7-0 success.
The Nigerian won 10 of his 13 total duels, higher than any player on the pitch for both sides which included a 100 percent success in his aerial duels. Throw in his three interceptions, three tackles and two completed dribbles (a game-high) and one understands how dominant the 23-year-old was in the rout.
Admittedly, the quality of the opponent — Oldham sit bottom of League Two — implies little should be read into Tuesday’s showing, yet a player who currently ranks fourth for average tackles plus interceptions may be favoured against the Reds.
Perhaps an even more notable facet of his game in how he aids the team’s pressing could give him the nod on Saturday. While Baptiste currently leads the way for pressures per 90, just above second-placed Onyeka, the Nigerian pips the Grenada man for success rate —38.2-34.1 percent.
Brentford’s summer signing was already profiled as a pressing machine before his arrival and has undoubtedly showcased elements of that side of him in the early gameweeks of the season.
Interestingly, his inclination to engage in and win a high volume of duels tallies with the side’s other starters in midfield. Vitaly Janelt and Christian Norgaard have respectively won 5.0 and 4.2 duels per game, with Onyeka’s average at 4.3.
Baptiste, in three appearances so far, is averaging 1.7 duels won, a significantly lower mean than Janelt, Norgaard and the Nigerian, and may well make way against Liverpool.
The Reds have tasted defeat just once in 27 Premier League encounters with promoted sides, their only blemish coming against Fulham during a depressing run of home defeats last season. The mood on Merseyside is different these days, but Brentford will relish the opportunity of claiming another scalp in their debut season.
Frank has promised his troops will give their all against Klopp’s team, and Onyeka will want to play his part as the Bees look to sting another league giant in front of their full-throated supporters.