Preview: Luton Town

As disappointing as last week’s defeat against West Bromwich Albion was, there is no reason at this stage not to put everything possible into closing down the gap to the play-offs. The question hanging over a Coventry City side where around half the current squad might not be here next season, however, is whether the players have the motivation to put in the big effort required between now and the end of the campaign to achieve something with this club.

A home game against one of the best away teams in the league this season is another big test of this team’s quality. With Luton Town in good form as they strive to hold onto a play-off spot, any shortage of motivation or concentration from Coventry City in this game will be pounced upon. Just like last week’s trip to West Bromwich Albion, this game will be another test of just how interested this Sky Blues outfit remains in this campaign.

Expected Line-Up

Possible Line-Up (3-4-2-1): Wilson; McNally, McFadzean, Doyle; Eccles, Sheaf, Hamer, Bidwell; Allen, Palmer; Gyokeres.

The headline piece of team news heading into this game surrounds the fitness of Kyle McFadzean. Mark Robins chose not to utilise the key centre-back last week against West Bromwich Albion when there was seemingly the option of doing so, after another goal conceded from some weak set-piece defending, the temptation to get McFadzean back must have risen. Were McFadzean to come into the team, Jonathan Panzo seems the likeliest to drop out.

The other returnee to the starting line-up that Coventry City fans are waiting for is Matt Godden, after two substitute appearances in the past two games. The main doubt with bringing Godden back into the side is that familiar concern as to whether he is an effective partner in attack for Viktor Gyokeres. On top of that, with Kasey Palmer not able to cover the same ground out of possession as Callum O’Hare would, the worry with starting Godden – especially, with him attempting to build fitness after injury – is whether it leaves the team without the mobility up front to both press and create opportunities on the counter-attack quickly.

Finally, after a slight improvement in performance following a double change at wing-back from the bench last week, Josh Eccles and Josh Wilson-Esbrand look to have a decent case to start this game. Eccles is the more likely to get the nod out of the two, given that he made the bigger impact against West Bromwich Albion and that Brooke Norton-Cuffy is yet to get up to speed at right wing-back. Wilson-Esbrand may continue to be held in reserve on the bench to utilise his pace later on in this game.

Last Time We Met

Coventry City were at their lowest point of the season as they travelled to a Luton Town side that had started their own campaign slowly. The Sky Blues had lost five straight games in all competitions and were returning to the scene of a 5-0 defeat the previous campaign. When Viktor Gyokeres missed a big early chance and Carlton Morris turned in a poor Fankaty Dabo clearance to give the Hatters an early lead, the game only looked to be going one way.

That was until Ben Sheaf played a ball into space for Viktor Gyokeres to breeze past a sleepy Dan Potts in the Luton Town backline and finish to restore parity. It was short-lived, as Kyle McFadzean dithered over a header, allowing Harry Cornick to send through Carlton Morris for his second of the game. However, Coventry City were very much in the contest and eventually fought their way to a draw, with Gustavo Hamer curling an effort from outside the area into the top corner. It was a small step towards the bigger recovery that would follow over the next month.

The Opposition

The Manager – Rob Edwards

It looked a tall order replacing a man in Nathan Jones, who had led Luton Town from League Two into the Championship play-offs, but Rob Edwards has made the transition look effortless. Cutting a warmer presence in the dug-out, Edwards, who arrived at Luton off the back of an ill-fated few months at Watford, has looked to evolve the Hatters’ style a little, targeting a more expansive brand of possession football.

The results thus far indicate that the transition has been a successful one, with Luton Town winning six of their last seven games to put themselves in the heart of play-off contention. Rob Edwards may have benefitted to some extent from playing some of the division’s weaker teams in that run, with performances against the better teams in the division under his reign having seen his team allow a fair few chances to their opponents.

Who To Look Out For?

Possible Line-Up (3-4-1-2): Horvath; Burke, Lockyer, Bell; Drameh, Mpanzu, Clark, Doughty; Woodrow; Morris, Adebayo.

A key feature of Luton Town’s play under Rob Edwards has been the wing-backs, which is consistent with the style of play that was so successful for the manager last year at Forest Green Rovers. On the right side, the January loan addition of Leeds United loanee, Cody Drameh, has looked a really good piece of business for a team playing with wing-backs due to his balance of pace, skill and eye for a final ball. On the left, Alfie Doughty is another really eye-catching wide player, primarily due to his absolutely rapid pace.

The other key feature of this Luton Town team is that strike partnership between Elijah Adebayo and Carlton Morris. Morris was in excellent scoring form early in the season, while that has dropped off, he remains an excellent physical presence and link player in attack. Adebayo has been the man in form more recently, another big physical presence but more focused on running in behind. The combination of the duo can be overwhelming on their own, with the service they get from wide areas, they can be devastating. On top of that there is another big striker, in Cauley Woodrow, operating just behind them.

Elsewhere, Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu in central midfield does an excellent job in circulating the ball quickly in front of the defence to get the team on the attack. While players such as Jordan Clark, Gabriel Osho and Fred Onyedinma can fill in multiple positions across midfield, defence and attack to provide the manager with some useful options to change things up tactically. On top of that, Aston Villa loanee, Marvelous Nakamba, is an intriguing to the squad, having had his moments in the Premier League with his energy and ball-winning ability in the centre of the park.

Where The Game Will Be Won Or Lost

The two key areas for Coventry City to focus on shutting Luton Town down are at wing-back and in attack, stopping the former is going to go a long way to limiting the threat of the latter. The bold strategy would be to look to press Luton high up the pitch in order to both force the wing-backs and cut off their service, however, that might not be possible with a Sky Blues outfit that doesn’t have Callum O’Hare’s energy in attack. Instead, dropping Jamie Allen into a deeper midfield position so that the team has bodies to support the wing-backs in their duels will probably be the play here.

Additionally, having Kyle McFadzean back in central defence would be a boost for Coventry City in dealing with a very physically powerful strike pairing in Carlton Morris and Elijah Adebayo. The concern with potentially starting McFadzean in this game is whether any shortage of fitness or match practice could see him dragged out of position, leaving space around him against a sharper opposition attack.

In terms of how Coventry City look to attack this game, having Ben Sheaf and Gustavo Hamer in central midfield could prove valuable in taking control of possession away from Luton Town and look to test the defensive capabilities of their attacking wing-backs. If that were to be the case, it will important that the Sky Blues can get other players into the opposing penalty area in order to distract attention away from Viktor Gyokeres, who Luton will look to crowd out at every opportunity.

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