Rob Edwards’ Hatters ran Premier League leaders Arsenal close in midweek; can they go one better against the champions? We look ahead to Sunday’s early kick-off at Kenilworth Road with our Luton Town vs Manchester City prediction and preview.
Luton Town vs Manchester City: The Quick Hits
- Manchester City are on their joint-worst winless run under Pep Guardiola in the Premier League (four games), but they are strong favourites to halt their slide on Sunday, with the Opta supercomputer giving them a 76.9% chance of beating Luton Town.
- Guardiola could go five league games without a victory for the very first time in his top-flight managerial career.
- Man City striker Erling Haaland has scored nine goals in eight Premier League games against promoted sides, only failing to find the net in two such matches.
Does the Premier League have a new crisis club? One month ago, Manchester City’s quest for an unprecedented fourth successive English top-flight title was going smoothly, with Pep Guardiola’s men recovering from an early-season wobble to lead Arsenal and Liverpool at the summit.
A month, however, is a long time in football, and City begin Matchday 16 fourth in the table and enduring their joint-longest winless run in the Premier League under Guardiola. Will they halt their slide when they make the trip to Kenilworth Road, with Luton Town eyeing a famous upset?
City produced arguably their worst performance under Guardiola in Wednesday’s meek 1-0 defeat at Aston Villa, with their two shots the fewest any team managed by Guardiola has attempted in a top-flight league game. Leon Bailey’s strike deflected off Rúben Dias to beat Ederson for the winner, with City not managing a single shot in the second half – the first time they have failed to record a shot across an entire half of Premier League football since April 2010 versus Arsenal.
City’s four-game winless streak (three draws, one defeat) is their joint-longest under Guardiola in the Premier League, having also gone four without a victory during his first campaign in charge between March and April 2017. Guardiola has never gone five top-flight games without winning as a manager.
The champions lost the midfield battle in midweek despite John Stones’ return to their starting lineup, with Rodri serving a one-match ban after accumulating five yellow cards. Their last five defeats across all competitions – against Brentford, Newcastle United, Wolves, Arsenal and Villa – have come without the Spaniard, while they are unbeaten in their last 43 with him in the team (33 wins, 10 draws).
City also misfired in attack, with Erling Haaland squandering their only chances as Emiliano Martínez twice kept him at bay. Haaland will be confident of a return to form at Kenilworth Road, though, having scored nine goals in his eight Premier League games against promoted teams, only failing to net in two of those – against Bournemouth last August and Nottingham Forest in February.
Guardiola will have more options available on Sunday, with Jack Grealish joining Rodri in returning from suspension. Electrifying winger Jérémy Doku – whose 22 chance-creating carries have only been bettered by team-mate Phil Foden (23) in the Premier League this season – could be in contention after missing Wednesday’s game with a minor injury, but Kevin De Bruyne is still out.
Luton, meanwhile, must pick themselves up after their heartbreaking 4-3 defeat to Arsenal on Tuesday, with Hatters fans sure to make Kenilworth Road a cauldron of noise for the visit of another Premier League giant.
Rob Edwards’ men showed great spirit to fight back after twice falling behind on Tuesday, briefly leading in the second half through Ross Barkley’s drive after Gabriel Osho and Elijah Adebayo both scored headed equalisers from Alfie Doughty corners. However, an Arsenal onslaught was inevitable after Kai Havertz made it 3-3, and Declan Rice’s 97th-minute header – the Gunners’ latest winner on record in an away Premier League game – ensured Luton had nothing to show for their efforts.
Things got worse for Luton on Thursday as Everton’s 3-0 win over Newcastle saw them slide into the bottom three, one point behind the Toffees. While Luton have been competitive since their promotion from the Championship, they are yet to keep a clean sheet in the Premier League and have conceded a league-high 25.3 expected goals against (xGA) from open play this term.
With City like a wounded animal, Sunday could be a busy day for Thomas Kaminski between the sticks. Fortunately for Luton, Opta’s post-shot expected goals (xGOT) model marks him out as the league’s best shot-stopper this season, conceding 5.8 goals fewer than expected based on the quality of shots he has faced.
Ahead of Kaminski, defenders Mads Andersen and Reece Burke look unlikely to recover in time to feature on Sunday, though captain Tom Lockyer could be in contention after narrowly missing out on Tuesday’s squad.
At the other end of the pitch, Luton may be reliant on the dead-ball quality of Doughty, who has created more chances (28), provided more assists (three) and played more passes into the box (110) than any other Luton player in the Premier League this season. Eighteen of his chances created have come from set-pieces, including all three of his assists.
Luton Town vs Manchester City Head-to-Head
Both clubs have come a long way since their last meeting in April 1999, a third-tier clash that City won 2-0 courtesy of goals from Paul Dickov and Tony Vaughan.
City are unbeaten in their last nine league games against Luton, winning five and drawing four against the Hatters since losing 1-0 at Kenilworth Road in September 1986.
The champions also have an outstanding recent record against promoted teams in the Premier League, winning 13 of their last 14 such games (one draw), since suffering a 2-1 defeat at the Etihad Stadium against Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United in April 2021.
Away from home, City are unbeaten in 13 league meetings with promoted clubs, winning 11 and drawing two since a 3-2 defeat to Norwich City in September 2019.
However, Luton do have a remarkable record when welcoming the title holders to Kenilworth Road, winning their last seven home league games against reigning top-flight champions. In English top-flight history, only Newcastle (nine straight wins from 1899-00 to 1910-11) have ever enjoyed a longer home winning run over defending champions, though Luton’s victories came between 1985-86 and 1991-92, so how much bearing that’ll have remains to be seen.
Nevertheless, City’s poor form on their travels might give Luton hope of extending that run.
Guardiola’s team recently won 23 successive games at the Etihad across all competitions, but they have only won one of their last five league matches on their travels (one draw, three defeats), thrashing rivals Manchester United 3-0 at Old Trafford in October.
The underlying numbers don’t make for great reading for City either. They have faced 8.5 shots per Premier League game in 2023-24, their most in any campaign under Guardiola, while their xGA per game stands at 0.97 – their highest after 15 games of a season since 2019-20 (0.99), when they last failed to win the title.
Luton will hope to capitalise on City’s newfound vulnerability, having scored in all but one of their seven home Premier League games, losing 1-0 to Tottenham in October. However, they have conceded 12 goals in those matches, with a third of them coming on Tuesday.
Luton Town vs Manchester City Opta Player Ratings
Before kick-off in this match, here are the top five performing players from both teams in the 2023-24 Premier League according to the Opta Player Ratings:
Thomas Kaminski: 62.3
Ross Barkley: 61.6
Tahith Chong: 61.3
Chiedozie Ogbene: 60.3
Elijah Adebayo: 60.2
Erling Haaland: 80.4
Bernardo Silva: 78.5
Jérémy Doku: 76.7
Manuel Akanji: 76.2
These Opta Player Ratings also power our set of brand-new, free-to-play gaming experiences, which you can play on Opta Analyst all season long.
Opta Power Rankings
The Opta Power Rankings are a global team ranking system that assigns an ability score to over 13,000 domestic football teams on a scale between zero and 100, where zero is the worst-ranked team in the world and 100 is the best team in the world.
Ahead of kick-off on Sunday, here is the Opta Power Ranking for both sides.
Luton Town vs Manchester City Prediction
It’s probably no surprise to learn City are overwhelming favourites for this David versus Goliath clash, winning a massive 76.9% of the supercomputer’s 10,000 pre-match simulations.
That is easily the biggest win percentage assigned to any team on Matchday 16, with Luton only triumphing in 9.1% of scenarios and 14% finishing level.
City’s title chances have diminished considerably in recent weeks, according to the supercomputer’s season predictions. Before a ball was kicked in 2023-24, they retained the title in 90.2% of our season simulations, but they now do so in 44.7%.
Luton, meanwhile, are relegated in 69.5% of scenarios, finishing 18th in 33.5%.