A place at Wembley Stadium looms large for both Luton Town and Sunderland when they meet in the second leg of the Sky Bet Championship play-off semi-final at a sold out Kenilworth Road on Tuesday evening.
It is advantage to Sunderland after the first leg with them taking a 2-1 lead to Bedfordshire with them but Luton finished third in the league for a reason and will be looking to convert that 46 game dominance into a turnaround in front of their own fans.
Where to watch
The match will be shown on the Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Football channels with the build-up beginning at 7.30pm and kick off coming along at 8pm.
Luton will have thought they were well on the way to winning this tie when Elijah Adebayo gave them a lead in the opening 10 minutes at the Stadium of Light on Saturday, but a piece of magic undid their bright first 35 minutes to the game and in the end they conceded again and had to ensure they were still in the tie heading into this second leg. To their credit, they did exactly that and now they need to win a game of football on home soil to extend their season, either by 30 minutes or at least 90.
Prior to the 0-0 draw against Hull City on the final day of the season when Rob Edwards made a raft of changes to his side to keep his main players fresh for this tie, Luton had won their last five on home soil, including appealing wins over Watford and Middlesbrough in atmospheres similar to the one which this match will be played out to. That will give Luton confidence that they can turn this tie around, especially with them maybe having more options to change things with no injuries to contend with.
There was a feeling ahead of the tie that the team who performed best on the road would be the ones to take it down given the strong away form of both teams, so Sunderland will be full of confidence heading on their travels with the lead in the tie. They will probably take even more confidence from the fact that they had to come from behind to secure that first leg lead, but for all their away form has been good in recent times, they failed to beat any team that finished above them away from home.
The one positive for Sunderland going into this match is that they generally score whenever they play and if they score here Luton will need to score three times over the course of potentially two hours to deny them a place at Wembley. The negative for Sunderland is they are fast running out of bodies and two matches of huge intensity in three days is a tough ask for an experienced squad let alone one which is full of younger players.
Sign up for a Boylesports account and bet £10 to get up to £20 in free bets! Perfect offer for this Sky Bet Championship! Click the image below for this great offer! New accounts only. 18+ T&Cs apply. Gamble Aware.
Rob Edwards confirmed ahead of the match that the three players who picked up knocks at the Stadium of Light are fine to feature in this game so any changes that he makes, if he makes any, will be to freshen the team up.
Tony Mowbray confirmed that only one of Patrick Roberts and Alex Pritchard trained ahead of this second leg and wouldn’t state which one did and which didn’t. He did hint that one would miss out on this game.
I highlighted after of the first leg how much of an emotional attachment I have to this tie and that has only heightened for this second leg given the prize that is on offer and everything else so I’m going to be a little reluctant with a bet here although I do expect this to be a very different game from the first leg. That match had one of the worst referees in the Championship in charge of it. This one has a Premier League referee controlling it. The pitch is also much smaller at Kenilworth Road which massively suits Luton but I’ll be delighted if Luton qualify without backing it.
I don’t see Luton turning this around if Carlton Morris isn’t much more of a factor in this second leg than he was able to be in the first leg. I backed him to score in that first leg but Luton seemed to have containment as their priority but here they are going to have to release the wing-backs further up the pitch and they will probably play with two eights rather than a six and an eight who was deeper than usual. Morris has 20 goals to his name, including in the home match against Sunderland in the league, and we did see at the Stadium of Light that when service came his way he has the beating of this defence physically and aerially. With more attacking intent from the home side their number nine should get plenty of chances to find the back of the net.
Back C.Morris to score anytime for a 3/10 stake at 2.75 with Bet365