Luton vs. Huddersfield Predictions: Terriers to nick low scoring affair
The pièce de résistance of domestic football begins on Friday as four Championship teams fight it out for the golden ticket to the Premier League.
The first of the five fixtures, which culminates with the most expensive match in football, takes place at Kenilworth Road where sixth placed Luton host third placed Huddersfield.
Luton vs. Huddersfield Tips
If recent history tells us anything, the Hatters meteoric rise from the Conference to the second tier in just eight seasons is not going to end with a fairytale-esque promotion to the top flight.
Over the last ten years, none of the sides that finished the season in sixth went on to gain promotion and only 10% of the sides over the past two decades to snatch the last play-off spot have gone on to reach the promised land.
The majority of the successful teams, somewhat unsurprisingly, finished the campaign in third, 40% to be exact.
Nathan Jones will be bolstered by the return to fitness of his first choice full backs, both of which are pivotal to the success of the 3-5-2 formation he favours. James Bree returned against Reading and plays a crucial role at right wing back, balancing the side with the much more offensive minded Amari’i Bell bombing down the left flank.
The Hatters have been blighted with injuries and currently have seven absentees, this has left them particularly light in central midfield, Henri Lansbury and Allan Campbell should line-up either side of Jordan Clark here. Uptop, Jones will be praying on the fitness of top goalscorer Elijah Adebayo, Luton’s talismann has not featured in any of his sides last two fixtures.
As for the visitors, Lee Nicholls, Levi Colwill, Tom Lees and Lewis O’Brien will all return to the starting line-up having been left out of their sides last game of the season.
Carlos Corberan opted for a 3-5-2 formation in both of his side's clashes with Luton this campaign but his tactical versatility means he is quite hard to second guess, best epitomised by the fact that he has deployed six different formations in the Terriers last seven games.
If he does opt for a lone striker, Danny Ward or Jordan Rhodes is the question.
The succinct lack of goals in these first leg bouts in the Championship play-offs is depicted by the 8/15 available for the game to feature under 2.5 goals.
Over the past five seasons, 58% of the first leg fixtures have seen one goal or fewer scored, with exactly half ending 1-0, and given the sides involved on Friday evening, I expect this match will follow suit.
The hosts are the only side in the division not to lose back-to-back league fixtures. A club that embraces the rugged charm of their environment, they will make this awkward and uncomfortable for Huddersfield players and fans alike and will no doubt come out of the traps quickly.
Their unlikely charge to the play-offs has been built on their home record. Champions Fulham accumulated the most points at home this campaign with 46, Luton amassed only three fewer with 43. In their 13 games since the turn of the year, they have won eight of their games on home soil and lost just once.
The Terriers hold an identical record on their travels. Over their past 13 games, they have secured 28 points and only lost one game.
So, what happens when an immovable force meets an unstoppable object? Well, not a lot, unders the main play for me here.
Both of these sides rank in the bottom half for xG generated from open play this season. The hosts have only scored seven goals in their last eight games and could be without 16 goals talisman Elijah Adebayo.
These are two sides that have lived in the realm of fine margins all season long with a large part of their respective successes coming from their threat from set pieces. The hosts have scored 25% of their 63 goals from them, 20 of Huddersfield's 64 have come from them.
These are two of the three best sides in the division at defending set pieces though. Huddersfield have only conceded an xGA of 10.5 (1st) this season, the Hatters have shipped an xGA of 11.3 (3rd). Therefore, I expect them to nullify one another's threat.
Taking the asian goals line of under 2.0 goals gives us the added security of our stake back if there are exactly two goals. This is an angle that has lost in only two of the last 12 Championship play-off first legs and one of these sides last six head-to-heads.
I struggle to think of a wing back in the country in better form than Harry Toffolo. The Terriers defender has six goals and seven assists to his name with the majority of his strikes coming during the business end of the season.
He has not been able to stop scoring since his stoppage time winner at Hull, bagging five goals in his side's last seven fixtures.
The season began with the attacking exploits of Sorba Thomas on the other flank grabbing the limelight but in his counterpart's absence, Toffolo has taken on the goalscoring burden. As his catalogue of recent finishes show, the former Lincoln City man is just as deadly at the back stick as he is from range, he is more than capable of the sublime or a lung busting run into the box.
With 16 league goals in a career spanning 241 games, Betfair’s price of 14/1 looks perfectly apt. However, based on current form- and this season's goals per 90 average of 0.15- I would have taken anything over 9/1 here.
In a game that promises a succinct lack of goals, I would not put anyone backing Toffolo to score the first and last goal as well. Therefore, if he does land the only goal of the game, we land the holy trinity.
Best of luck if you are backing any of these selections and please remember to gamble responsibly.
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