There might be just a rizla paper separating Luton and Millwall this season – with the two sides level on points, games and goal difference – but that same rizla paper may just come to separate sixth from seventh as well.
Right now, the two sides occupy play-off spots with games in hand on the teams around them, but there’s a threat posed by Watford and Norwich – currently outside the top six – which could leave both struggling for the final spot.
As such, Tuesday night’s game at Kenilworth Road is a crucial one for the Championship play-off scramble as the season enters its business end.
Hats off to Luton
Luton secured a first win in four at Birmingham last time out, with Carlton Morris heading in his 13th goal of the league season, and the only one of the game.
Since Rob Edwards took the helm on 17th November, the Hatters have accrued 23 points from 12 games, as opposed to 30 from 21 beforehand, and are playing smoother football on the deck, as opposed to the long-ball game under Nathan Jones.
Marvellous Nakamba, recruited in January from Aston Villa, has forged an excellent midfield pairing with stalwart Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu. Nakamba provides the solidity and keeps things ticking over, allowing Mpanzu to be more expressive.
Gabriel Osho, meanwhile, produced a fantastic performance in the middle of Edwards’ back-three: the assured 24-year-old could be defying his doubters.
Millwall on the march
Gary Rowett’s side have taken 14 points from their last seven games. Not bad, to say they’ve faced runaway top two Burnley and Sheffield United in that sequence.
The Lions have an excellent defence, which has long been associated with them throughout Rowett’s reign. The South Bermondsey outfit have scored first in 14 of their 33 league games, winning on a whopping 13 occasions, and drawing the other with only eight goals conceded.
And yet, they also have quality in attack in Tom Bradshaw, who has scored two hat-tricks in the Championship, joining the company of Aleksandar Mitrovic, Adam Armstrong, Said Benrahma, Dwight Gayle and Billy Sharp from the last five seasons.
Zian Flemming, meanwhile, has been one of the Championship’s stars. His individual magic means the absence of Jed Wallace – Millwall’s best player from the previous five seasons, who departed for West Brom in the summer – hasn’t been felt too keenly.
The tactics board
Jordan Clark will take on a key pressing role for the Hatters, while wing-backs Cody Drameh and Alfie Doughty will push high up the pitch with the intention of putting crosses in for Carlton Morris and Elijah Adebayo.
Town are still a crossing side, as they were under Nathan Jones, but are more patient about getting into those positions and tend to put the deliveries in from the byline, rather than from deeper areas, making them hard to defend against.
Millwall, however, tend to be comfortable defending crosses due to the height in their back-line with Dan McNamara, Charlie Cresswell, Jake Cooper and Murray Wallace.
The Lions ask Jamie Shackleton and George Saville to get through the energetic covering work, allowing Flemming, Bradshaw and Andreas Voglsammer to break with George Honeyman supporting.
If Rowett’s side can defend the crosses, then there could be opportunities for them to break, with the home wing-backs caught so high up the field.
Luton vs Millwall betting tips
Tom Bradshaw is a stunning 4/1 with Bet365 to score anytime on Tuesday night, and the Double Chance: Draw or Millwall can be backed at 4/6.
The South Londoners are priced as underdogs for the trip to Bedfordshire, but they’ve only lost two of their previous 12 league games, and could be underrated at Kenilworth Road.
Double Chance: Draw or Millwall @ 4/6 with Bet365
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All odds are correct at time of writing.