We look ahead to the second leg of this Championship play-off match at the Stadium of Light with our Luton vs Sunderland prediction and stats preview.
Luton vs Sunderland: The Quick Hits
- Opta’s supercomputer makes Luton favourites to win on the night, but believes Sunderland are likelier to advance.
- The Black Cats lead 2-1 from the first leg.
- The Hatters will be looking to avoid matching Portsmouth’s unwanted playoff record.
Sunderland did the job they had to do in the first leg of their Championship play-off semi-final against Luton to keep their hopes of back-to-back promotions well and truly alive.
Having snuck into the top six on the final day of the season, the challenge of the Hatters, (who had achieved their highest placing in the English football ladder in 31 years) might have seemed like a daunting one, especially when they slipped behind on home soil.
But roared on by over 46,000 who packed out the Stadium of Light, the Black Cats now hold a one-goal advantage as they head to the rather different atmosphere of Kenilworth Road where there’s a rather uncomfortable ‘deja-vu’ feeling. Luton fans have seen their three previous attempts in the EFL play-offs all end at the semi-final stage following their exit against Huddersfield last season and unsuccessful semi-final attempts in the 1996-97 third tier and 2016-17 League Two season.
Only Portsmouth (eight) have played more games in the Football League play-offs without winning a single game than Luton (seven – D3 L4). All three of their home games have ended up as draws. They know that won’t be enough this time around.
Sunderland 2-1 Luton Town: 13 May 2023 (Championship Play-offs Semi Final First Leg)
The two games earlier in the season had ended as 1-1 draws and followed a similar pattern, with Luton scoring first only to find Sunderland having a response.
Elijah Adebayo opened the scoring last time out at the Stadium of Light, with Luton’s hopes of a first victory over Sunderland since August 2018 looking like it would come true at the most crucial time.
Much like in their March encounter, it was Amad Diallo who found the equaliser for the Black Cats, with a stunning left-footed strike from a set piece that left Ethan Horvath stranded. But whereas his equaliser two months ago came with just minutes left in the game, this came six minutes before the break.
The hosts were able to build upon their momentum after the break, with Jack Clarke’s cross headed home by Trai Hume to make it 10 games unbeaten for Sunderland and ending the Hatters’ own 14-game streak. However, the last time Luton lost consecutive matches in all competitions was a run of three back in August 2022.
Previous Meeting Line-Ups:
Sunderland: Anthony Patterson, Lynden Gooch (c), Luke O’Nien, Trai Hume, Patrick Roberts, Pierre Ekwah, Daniel Neil, Jack Clarke, Alex Pritchard, Amad Diallo, Joe Gelhardt. Substitutes: Alex Bass, Niall Huggins, Abdoullah Ba, Ellis Taylor, Isaac Lihadji, Edouard Michut, Joseph Anderson.
Luton Town: Ethan Horvath, Amari’i Bell, Tom Lockyer (c), Gabriel Osho, Alfie Doughty, Jordan Clark, Marvelous Nakamba, Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, Cody Drameh, Elijah Adebayo, Carlton Morris. Substitutes: James Shea, Daniel Potts, Luke Berry, Reece Burke, Allan Campbell, Fred Onyedinma, Luke Freeman.
Despite that defeat last time out, Luton will be buoyed by their home form this season, having secured 39 from a possible 69 points at Kenilworth Road this season. The Hatters are on a seven-match unbeaten streak there (W5 D2), dating back to the end of February.
The trouble is that Sunderland have also built a reputation as away warriors in the latter half of the season, going unbeaten in their last five such games (W4 D1). They were one of seven Championship clubs – along with Luton – to win more points away than they did at home in 2022-23, with their 39-point tally away from home nine points more than they collected at the Stadium of Light during the regular season (30).
However, Sunderland’s last away win at Luton was on the final day of the 2006-07 Championship season on what proved to be a memorable occasion for them, with the Black Cats 5-0 victory seeing them win the second-tier title.
Luton Town: Gabriel Osho
Maybe somewhat of a surprise choice here but Gabriel Osho repaid the faith shown in him by Rob Edwards to start as part of the Luton back three on Saturday, going on to play his first full 90 minutes since the start of April. In many ways, it looked like he hadn’t missed a beat, with some of the Hatters’ early success in breaking up Sunderland’s attacks coming from his reading of play.
The 24-year-old’s contract is set to expire at the end of the season, with no external talk of the former Reading defender seeing his contract extended. No doubt his focus will be on the short-term though, shoring up the Hatters defence alongside Tom Lockyer to make their task less of a challenge to overcome.
Sunderland: Jack Clarke
Please don’t think we are being lazy for picking out Jack Clarke as being our Sunderland player to watch once again. But the 22-year-old underlined why he led the Championship for assists in the 2022-23 season (11) with his performance in the first leg, registering his third assist in three games by setting up Trai Hume’s winner.
Clarke has now been involved in eight goals in his last eight appearances for Sunderland (two goals, six assists). And it is with the ball at his feet where he is the most dangerous, leading the Championship for chances created (41) and assists (six) following ball carries this season. He nearly produced the goods himself from a similar situation against Luton last time out, seeing a shot fizz just past the post. If the game opens up with Luton chasing a winner, it will be interesting to see if Clarke can make his impact felt.
Sunderland vs Luton Prediction
Bear with us here, as there’s quite a bit to break down.
On the night, the Opta supercomputer is making Luton the favourites to pick up the victory, giving the Hatters a 49.3% chance. But don’t go cancelling your plans and making travel arrangements for Wembley just yet Hatters fans.
The supercomputer does feel like the one-goal advantage Sunderland hold from the first leg is going to be enough, with the Black Cats the favourites to advance into the Championship play-off final, with a 63.9% chance of winning the tie outright. In fact, Tony Mowbray’s side will come into this game as the overall favourites to win the play-offs, with a 33.1% chance of becoming the first team to be promoted into the Premier League with back-to-back play-off success.