Millwall v Luton Town
Millwall v Luton Town Cheat Sheet
The early kick-off on Good Friday sees Luton travel south to the Den to face Millwall in an enormous game for both of these sides and Burnley. If the home side avoid defeat, then a Burnley victory would see the Clarets promoted later on Friday afternoon. However, the Lions will be hoping for a victory themselves as they sit in 5th, four points above Norwich who are just outside the playoffs. The visitors still have a slim chance of automatic promotion but shouldn’t be expecting it, despite losing just eight games this season.
Millwall have been impressive this season and despite recent form being a little disappointing (two wins in six), their fans will still be confident of a top-six finish. They are comfortable in the top six, four points above Norwich with seven games to go and they have a favourable run to end the season. Another few wins and focus can switch to the post-season playoffs, where they may play Friday’s opponents – Luton. They have lost just four games at the Den all season, but two of those have been in the last three games although they have not lost consecutive games here since 2020/21. Gary Rowett should not need to change too much from the last game having been impressed with his side’s “really good performance” in the stalemate with West Brom last time out. Andreas Voglslammer should come in ahead of Duncan Watmore, and Jamie Shackleton may be reintroduced in midfield. At the back, Charlie Cresswell is out with an eye injury which will likely see Shaun Hutchinson play.
Luton have been mightily impressive once again. After Nathan Jones left for Southampton, there were concerns that their form may tail off, but former Watford and Forest Green Rovers boss Rob Edwards has continued where he left off. They have some of the best form away from home in the league, picking up 35 points in their 19 games, and only Burnley (37) and Middlesbrough (34) can better Luton’s 31 points from their last 15 games. Their remaining fixtures are kind but they will have to rely on Sheffield United to crumble if they hope to reach the Premier League automatically, given that they are six points behind the Blades having played a game more. Just like Millwall, they will not need to make any changes from their last game, if any at all. Reece Burke, Luke Berry, and Sonny Bradley are the most likely candidates to start that didn’t last time out but even they are unlikely.
Millwall home games this season have averaged 2.42 goals, with this selection landing in 79% of them. In 2023, they have played eight games here in all competitions and there have been 23 goals with seven of those seeing two or more goals in them. Despite a very good record here this season, they have kept a clean sheet in just 37% of games and have scored in almost three-quarters of them (74%). These two sides met at the end of February and the final score was 2-2.
Luton games are averaging 2.13 goals per game this season, and they have not been involved in a stalemate since right at the start of November. This selection has landed in two-thirds of their games and the Hatters have failed to score in just 21% of their matches. Ten of their last 12 away games have seen two or more goals. This may be a cagey game given the permutations for both sides, but Luton would not take a draw. A victory keeps their slim chances of automatic promotion alive and a defeat, whilst not ideal, should not harm their playoff hopes – which are almost secured.
Tom Bradshaw has been on fire in recent months which has earned him a call-up for the Wales national team. He has scored 14 Championship goals this season, having 2.65 shots per game with 1.09 of those on target. Since the 18th of February, he has played 9 games for Millwall, scoring seven goals, including a hat-trick here against Sheffield United.
In those games, he has had at least one shot in all of them, amassing a total of 23. 11 of those have been on target, with this selection landing in seven of the nine games. These two sides met at the end of February and the Welsh international scored from his only shot, also getting an assist. This continued his excellent record against Friday’s opponents – scoring in four of the five games he has played against the side.
Luton average 3.69 shots on target per game in the Championship this season. Since the 28th of January, they have played 14 games, having at least three shots on target in 13 of them. They have also had at least ten shots in ten of them. The only two sides they have failed to score against in that time are Burnley and Grimsby (in the FA Cup). They had 15 shots with four of them on target against the Lions back in February.
Millwall concede an average of 3.21 shots on target per match in the league. Since Valentine’s Day, they have played ten games, conceding 37 shots at an average of 3.7 per game. Five of those have been at home with this selection landing in four of those. The exception to that was Huddersfield, who had just two from their four shots, despite winning 1-0. Neil Warnock’s side set up for a smash-and-grab that day, which is unlikely to be Luton’s gameplan here. Before that, Swansea (9), Norwich (5), Burnley (3), and Sheffield United (6) all saw this selection land, and they all breached the Millwall goal.
Luton will be seeing this game as a must-win for their own automatic promotion hopes. Away from home this season, they average 4.47 corners per game, and this selection has landed in 53% of those games. In their last six away from Kenilworth Road, four of them have seen the Hatters have four or more corners.
In nine of their last ten matches, they have had four corners and in six of them, they have had six. At home, Millwall concede an average of 4.05 corners per game, giving away at least four in 63% of their games, including in each of the last six here. In the match between these two sides at the end of February, the Hatters had six corners.
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Sunderland v Hull City
Sunderland v Hull City Cheat Sheet
It was not too long ago that this was a Premier League fixture, and it is even more recently that the pair have met at League One level. Both Sunderland and Hull City have seen new ownership enter the building since and both have aspirations to climb the Championship table and pursue life in the top flight once again in the future.
12th place Sunderland are the hosts for this 5:30 pm kick-off at the Stadium of Light. Newly promoted as the League One play-off winners, the Black Cats have had an encouraging season where frustrations have largely come from individual matches rather than the campaign as a whole. A slim chance of a top-six finish remains for Sunderland, seven points off sixth place Blackburn Rovers and fully in the pack of teams still hoping to break into the play-off places before the season is up. A near-enough faultless last seven games would likely be required in order for that to happen though.
Hull City meanwhile sit five places back from Sunderland and six points worse off. Some Tigers fans may still be monitoring that nine-point gap between themselves and the Championship relegation zone but will like the number of teams currently between them and 22nd place.
If the Black Cats are to gain post-season football, a near-enough perfect record is needed for their final seven matches. The Black Cats’ home record leaves a lot to be desired, especially when their away record is only bettered by four Championship sides. A battling performance away at Turf Moor last Friday secured a 0-0 draw with runaway league leaders Burnley, Sunderland in the process becoming the first team to blank Burnley at home all season.
Sunderland need to feel encouraged by their opponent’s form though. A run of just one win in nine matches is starting to put pressure on Tigers head coach Liam Rosenior, with owner Acun Ilıcalı recently giving a public show of support towards the 38-year-old despite external concerns. Hull are in turn winless on the road since the 2nd of January, with draws coming away at Stoke City, Coventry City and Reading, and defeats coming at the hands of Sheffield United, Norwich City and Bristol City.
Incentivised further by the presence of the Sky cameras, Sunderland will be keen to put on a show and make sure that neutrals are still keeping them in the play-off conversation as April progresses.
Injury issues for Ross Stewart have left this season something of a ‘what if’ for Sunderland fans. The 27-year-old Scot is undoubtedly one of the most complete and influential strikers at the level, and could well have been the difference for the Black Cats between a good mid-table season and an excellent play-off finish.
The Sunderland strike force has not been completely ineffective in Stewart’s absence though. Tony Mowbray on several occasions has deployed a fully fluid frontline of natural wingers before Joe Gelhardt’s arrival has given him that first-choice striker to deploy up top. In 22-year-old Jack Clarke however, Sunderland have a player who is always a threat from wide and central positions. Now a regular starter on the left wing, Clarke’s direct running can be a threat throughout the game. The former Leeds United academy product averages 1.4 shots per 90 from out wide, the majority of his attempts coming from within 18 yards of goal.
As a natural right footer who will drift in from the left channel, Clarke can usually be expected to provide a big attacking influence in a game. There is a good chance as well that as the match progresses and Tony Mowbray makes his substitutions, Clarke may well be pushed further forward into the striker position, a place where nearly a third of his league goals this season have come from.
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Middlesbrough v Burnley
Middlesbrough v Burnley Cheat Sheet
This is a huge game for both sides. Burnley have the potential to confirm promotion back to the Premier League at the first time of asking if they win this match. If Middlesbrough continue to harbour aspirations to do the same then they also need the win here. In all likelihood, a draw for Burnley here at least gets them closer to the inevitable but is no good for Middlesbrough given the gap that has emerged with Sheffield United.
The pressure on the match is one factor that makes the result and the pattern of the match fairly difficult to read. Middlesbrough have generally been exceptional at the Riverside, firing in goals at an unmatched rate since Michael Carrick replaced Chris Wilder. However, one of their recent matches was at home to Stoke, who themselves have been revitalised into one of the division’s better teams of late, and the performance in that match was fairly flat and stifled.
There’s no doubt that Vincent Kompany and his coaching staff will have watched that match for things that they could pick out to keep the Middlesbrough attack under wraps. Burnley have obviously only lost twice all season and they have demonstrated on multiple occasions that they have the ability to keep opponents away from their goal when they need to, albeit they have rarely come up against a team as fluent in attack as Boro.
So there is plenty of evidence that goals are in both sides. Obviously, the top scorer in the division is Chuba Akpom with 25, and his partnership with Cameron Archer, plus support from Marcus Forss, Riley McGree, and Ryan Giles, in particular, have been at the forefront of the danger. Indeed, the performance data tells us that Middlesbrough have created the highest xG of any side in the league since the January transfer window closed, with 19.8xG (with Stoke just behind).
However, Burnley have conceded the lowest xG against over that same period, only 5.5xG against in 10 matches, far ahead of the next best of Sheffield United at 8.3xGA. Both Burnley and Middlesbrough sit in the top 3 of expected points over that period as well.
When bringing all the evidence together it is difficult to side one way or the other on the main markets. The bookmakers have this priced pretty much the same on both sides and very tight in the Over/Under 2.5 goal line as well. I agree with their lines, even if the evidence for goals is strong, it feels like the type of match that will be fairly tight and cagey.
I do think that Middlesbrough will have more of the ball than one might expect against a team that likes to dominate. Burnley only had 48% possession at Norwich and 44% at Swansea, and I think it could be 50-50 here. Middlesbrough average over five shots on target in the Championship, which rises to 6 at home, and whilst Burnley generally keep their opponents under that line, they have been a touch slacker of late with Hull and Sunderland both managing to breach the four or more shots on target line.
With the added incentive that Boro have to win this one, I think that the decent price we are getting on 4 or more shots on target is worth adding to our bet builder.
The pressure of the match has been mentioned a few times and this could lead to fireworks in the middle of the park.
Darren Bond is the referee for this one. He is an experienced ref who has taken 26 Championship matches so far this season. He averages a pretty high 4.15 yellows per match, but, unfortunately, the bookmakers have very much cottoned onto this. The price for over 4.5 cards is odds-on, so that feels far too short.
However, there are some good angles in the individual fouls market. Bond gives an average of 20 fouls per match, and with the capacity Riverside crowd in the house, the tension in the stadium will be palpable. There could be grounds for more fouls than average here.
Having looked into Burnley a few times recently I am still bemused as to why Josh Cullen continues to be priced bigger than many teammates for a foul. The former Anderlecht man has committed at least one foul in his last eight matches, and 15 in 12 overall. His price for one foul definitely does not reflect this record and is a confident shout to add into a bet builder.
Middlesbrough should have really worked on their attacking set pieces ahead of this one, The biggest trouble that Burnley have been in during a match this season, taking away the Manchester City FA Cup quarter-final, has been when Sheffield United pummelled them with an aerial bombardment through attacking free-kicks and corners.
Though Boro don’t quite have the aerial firepower that The Blades did they do have some key men to look for in the opponents’ box. Darragh Lenihan is one of those players. Guaranteed to play 90 minutes, the former Blackburn man is averaging 0.96 shots per match, and if as I suggest, Middlesbrough will focus some attacks in the air from set pieces then it seems more likely that Lenihan will get s shot of some description in this one. He is close to even money so the price is good enough to use in our bet builder.
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