The Championship Semi-Final between Luton and Sunderland is finely poised heading back to Kenilworth Road for the 2nd leg after the Wearsiders established a 1st leg aggregate lead with a 2-1 victory at the Stadium of Light. The Black Cats have a slim advantage as they seek the opportunity to secure unlikely back-to-back promotions, but an early goal for Luton would drastically swing the momentum. Here are my football betting tips ahead of the crucial tie.
Edwards Looking for Response
The Hatters could barely have timed one of their worst performance of the season less favourably, although at least better to falter in the first leg, rather than the second, so they still have a chance to turn things around.
Rob Edwards’ charges have been a better footballing outfit than the direct, crossing side that reached the Championship play-offs under Nathan Jones last season. Still, there was little evidence of that on Wearside, as they struggled to string passes together, execute their press as they can and bring strikers into the game.
If the Kenny is rocking, though, a strong, front-foot start to the second leg will change the dynamics: something their visitors will be all too aware of.
There’s a reason Luton have lost just two in 21 matches: the chances are, they won’t play that badly twice in succession, so viewed optimistically, it’s almost a positive that the deficit is only a one-goal margin. Luton are priced at 21/20 with Betfred to win this game and 8/5 with Unibet to qualify for the Final. Tempting odds backing a team that has only lost 4 of their 23 home league games this season.
Black Cats in Need of Luck?
In their first Championship Play-Off fixture in 19 years, Sunderland truly stepped up to the occasion: it was an electric atmosphere at the Stadium of Light and the players delivered. That win has put them as the 8/15 favourites with Betfred to progress to the Final.
With the assurance of Alex Pritchard, the quality of Jack Clarke, the individual brilliance of Amad Diallo and the work rate of Pierre Ekwah, the Black Cats produced an inspired showing. Last week, we hinted that Diallo was worth backing as an anytime scorer and he delivered. At 15/4 with Bet365, the Manchester United loanee is an attractive pick to score anytime.
While it was a hugely positive evening overall, there’s perhaps a nagging feeling that Sunderland aren’t going to have both legs played on their own terms, that they’ll struggle to play as well as that in the cauldron of noise that is Kenilworth Road, and that perhaps there’s a slight sense of missed opportunity at not making the most of their home dominance by establishing a two-goal advantage.
The Tactics Board
Luton aren’t expected to make a significant volume of changes, despite their disappointing first leg showing, but there’s a good chance Allan Campbell comes in for Jordan Clark for the Scot’s energy in the press.
The Hatters will aim to start very aggressively, and force Sunderland onto the back foot, play through the middle via stalwart Pelly Ruddock-Mpanzu, then work it wide to wing-backs Cody Drameh and Alfie Doughty, who will use their relationships with Gabriel Osho and Amari’i Bell respectively to find numerical advantages in the channels, then find opportunities for deliveries.
From that point, they hope Carlton Morris and Elijah Adebayo can impose their physicality on a light, makeshift centre-back pairing of Trai Hume and Luke O’Nien, who have done incredibly well in the circumstances but can’t offer the same resistance as Danny Batth or Dan Ballard, who are both injured.
Luton will have a far greater volume of attacks than their hosts, who need their attacking midfielders – especially Jack Clarke and Amad Diallo – to be incredibly productive when they come forward.
Luton vs Sunderland Betting Tips
Four of the last five times a Championship Play-Off Semi-Final first leg has been won by the home team by one goal, their opponents have still managed to qualify in the second leg.
That’s not to say that losing the first leg isn’t a setback, but sometimes a narrow defeat can bring it’s own advantages, because it encourages an aggressive, attacking, front-foot mentality for the second leg, with a very retrievable.
By contrast, the teams that win the first leg are faced with an awkward psychological dilemma in the sense that it’s difficult to attack the game in the way they would normally, even if they plan to, because they know they have something to protect.
With that in mind, Unibet’s 8/5 on Luton to qualify looks huge, while 20-goal man Morris is 17/10 to score anytime, having bagged 7 goals in his previous 12 Championship appearances.
Luton to qualify @ 8/5 with Unibet
Carlton Morris to score anytime @ 17/10 with Betfair
All odds are accurate at the time of writing.
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