With all the drama of the Championship play-off semi finals now behind us, Luton Town and Coventry City will embark on Wembley Stadium tomorrow to compete in what has widely become known as ‘the richest game in football’. With the stakes so high, the outcome of the clash is difficult to predict, although popular supercomputer FiveThirtyEight has produced an outcome which will delight one set of fans.
After a gruelling campaign, Luton and Coventry will be well aware of the prize available at hand and a chance to rub noses with the likes of Manchester City, Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool beckons for the winner.
The Sky Blues will be hoping to return to the top tier for the first time since 2001, but for Luton, a place in the Premier League for the first time is on the table after cruelly missing out on the inaugural season after suffering relegation from Division 1 in 1992, the final season before it was rebranded.
What Led Us To This Point?
As is customary in the play-offs, both teams had a nervy time in progressing to the final showdown. Luton lost their first leg against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light, despite taking an early lead. An Amad Diallo wonderstrike drew the Black Cats level before Trai Hume handed Tony Mowbray’s side a first leg advantage.
The Hatters were straight out of the blocks at Kenilworth Road though, with Gabriel Osho levelling the tie in the 10th minute. They took a 3-2 aggregate lead just before half time through Tom Lockyer and held on to secure a historic place at the national stadium.
The other semi-final was equally tight, and Coventry were unable to make home advantage pay in the first leg as Middlesbrough left the Midlands with a 0-0 draw.
Michael Carrick’s side enjoyed the lions share of possession at the Riverside Stadium, but it was the visitors who struck first through Gustavo Hamer shortly before the hour mark. Boro’ threw everything at the 1987 FA Cup winners in search of an equaliser but were unable to break through a resilient Coventry defence and the single goal was enough to progress.
What Does The Supercomputer Say?
The supercomputer uses data driven by a SPI rating, which considers each team’s form, injuries and goals scored and conceded in recent weeks, which unsurprisingly makes this a difficult contest to predict.
Furthermore, both meetings this season have ended in a draw, although Coventry have not recorded a win over their opponents since they were both in League Two in 2017.
The nine fixtures since have resulted in five draws, but the supercomputer predicts that Luton have a 56% chance of emerging victorious on the day, meaning Coventry are rated at 44%.
Few would have predicted these two teams would be competing in the play-off final at the beginning of the campaign, and that is a testament to the excellent work done at both clubs this season.
Luton finished 10 points and two places above Coventry which does seem to give them the advantage, but this one is far too close to call.
Nerves will be on show and I expect this one to go all the way to penalties. Who wins from there is anyone’s guess.
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