There is one promotion spot back to the Premier League left and the battle for it begins on Friday night when Luton Town host Huddersfield Town in the first leg of the Sky Bet Championship play-off semi-final.
You can’t get away from the fact that neither of these two were expected to have had their season extended but one of them won’t just extend their campaign, they will finish it at Wembley, and this first leg might go a long way to deciding who it will be.
Where to watch
The match will be shown live and in full on the Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Football channels with the build-up to a huge clash beginning at 7pm. Kick off at Kenilworth Road is 7.45pm.
What a season it has been for Luton Town and incredibly it isn’t done yet. You could have been forgiven for writing Luton off at Christmas because they languished in the bottom half of the table but the run they have been on since then has been little short of remarkable, particularly when you consider the insane amount of matches they have had to play in such a short period of time. Nobody at Kenilworth Road worries about budgets being a disadvantage but the down side of it is that a small squad has been tested to the limit.
There is just no give in this Luton side though. Many thought their race was run when they got wiped out 7-0 at Fulham just 11 days ago but they bounced back and won their final game against Reading to set up this tie. Luton have lost just one of their last 13 home matches which includes a draw against Fulham and wins over Bournemouth and Nottingham Forest so they will be absolutely delighted that they are enjoying home comforts first.
When you consider how close Huddersfield Town came to being relegated last season, to be three wins away from a return to the Premier League is a remarkable effort, although some of it does need to be tempered by the fact that they are still in receipt of parachute payments following their relegation from the Premier League. They run out in a few weeks though so whether that adds pressure to the Terriers over the course of these two matches remains to be seen.
Huddersfield certainly head into the play-offs in decent form. They have won six of their last seven matches and have finished the campaign with a real flourish despite running up a few injuries in that time. One of those wins was against their opponents here which will give them confidence. In fact, Huddersfield are yet to concede a goal against Luton this season. That will be another statistic which brings confidence on the coach trip with them.
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Luton Town are hoping that Elijah Adebayo will be fit to start this match. Luke Berry is another who could return from injury. Nathan Jones reported no fresh injuries after the win at Reading on Saturday and could make just one change to his side if his talisman is fit to return.
Huddersfield boss Carlos Corberan hopes that he will have Lewis O’Brien fit to feature for this first leg but he has ruled out the chance of Matty Pearson playing against his former club and Sorba Thomas to be fit to be available.
I think all the consensus from everywhere you look is that this is going to be a tight first leg but I’m not so sure this tie is going to comply with history or what is expected. I think Luton will give this their absolute all in this match in front of a packed out Kenilworth Road and that might lead to more goals than is expected. I’m way too emotionally involved to offer up a balanced bet on this match but I will make the case for one man to make an impact where we can get a couple of value prices.
If the match does comply with the logic that it will be tight and nervy then shots from distance is likely to be the order of the day in a 90 minutes where the two sides cancel themselves out like they did in the league game here in October. That might bring James Bree into the game. He is 11/2 to have a shot on target and 5/1 to have an assist. Bree is the set-piece taker and on Saturday just missed the target with a 25-yard free kick and another 25-yard effort in open play. It might be worth paying to see if he has corrected his radar after a spell out with injury. He has also created 65 chances for his teammates this season and the wing-backs are going to be a massive feature of this tie. Much is made of the sudden spurt in attacking output of Huddersfield wing-back Harry Toffolo but he can be got at defensively and Bree could take advantage of that. Bree was through on goal in the away league game when brought down for a penalty. His involvement in this match could lead to him registering either an assist or a shot on target.
Back J.Bree – 1+ Shot on Target for a 1/10 stake at 6.50 with Betfair
Back J.Bree – Anytime assist for a 1/10 stake at 6.00 with William Hill
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