Luton Town v Middlesbrough: The Breakdown build-up
Luton Town and Middlesbrough both head into this evening's clash looking to avenge 2-0 losses from Saturday.
Well, I hope everyone enjoyed that winning feeling whilst it lasted, because typical Boro are well and truly back.
A humbling home defeat to Birmingham City put a frustrating stop to Boro's winning momentum, with the presence of two adopted Teessiders being the highlight of the afternoon.
Saturday also meant curtains for Luton Town's five game unbeaten run, as they tasted defeat at the hands of Preston North End.
It's 10th vs 11th in the Championship on a cold Tuesday night in Bedfordshire, and here's everything you need to know ahead of it.
Luton Town FC
Nickname: The Hatters
Stadium: Kenilworth Road
Current league position: 10th
Last season finish: 12th
Manager: Nathan Jones
Current Top Scorer: Elijah Adebayo (7)
Fun fact: In 2013, Luton Town became the first non-league side in history to beat a Premier League team in the FA Cup, beating Norwich City 1-0 at Carrow Road.
Luton Town are quickly establishing themselves as a mid-table/top-half Championship side since their promotion in 2019. And with The Hatters owners confidently predicting last week that their team will be a Premier League side in the near future, they are certainly a club with high aspirations.
Under manager Nathan Jones, The Hatters tend to favour a 3-4-1-2 system, which is the same system that Middlesbrough have utilised in recent triumphs over Cardiff City, Barnsley and Peterborough United respectively. Utilising this system, Luton Town have also seen success, especially a 5-0 trouncing over Coventry City.
It was a busy summer transfer window, with plenty of players entering and exiting Kenilworth Road. Some of those big name departures included: Jamie Collins (CF),
Matthew Pearson (CB), Ryan Tunnicliffe (CM), Joe Morrell (CM) as well as attackers
Kazenga LuaLua and George Moncur.
The Hatters would certainly raise eyebrows with some of their summer signings,
with some well known faces arriving, such as: Tom Ince (RW), Henri Lansbury (CM)
and big centre-forward Cameron Jerome, whose name alone I'm sure sends shivers through all Boro fans after that trip to Wembley in 2015.
Goals have been flowing for Luton in 2021, as so far only Bournemouth, Fulham, QPR, Blackburn and West Brom have found the net more times this season than Luton Town.
The main danger - if he is fit to play - comes from Elijah Adebayo, who has seven goals in thirteen this season, but this is far from a one man team. Right winger Harry Cornick has six in 15 with two assists, and Boro will be well aware of the danger Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu can pose.
It's not just the forward end of the pitch where Luton have been strong however, as
central defenders Kal Naismith and Tom Lockyer, as well as wing-backs James Bree
and Amari'i Bell have all been fantastic for The Hatters in 2021. Make no mistake,
these lot are going to be a very tough nut to crack for Middlesbrough.
The Form Book
Middlesbrough (Last six: LWWWLW)
Middlesbrough 0-2 Birmingham City
Cardiff City 0-2 Middlesbrough
Middlesbrough 2-0 Barnsley
Middlesbrough 2-0 Peterborough United
Hull City 2-0 Middlesbrough
Middlesbrough 2-0 Sheffield United
Luton Town (Last six: LWDWDW)
Preston North End 2-0 Luton Town
Luton Town 1-0 Hull City
Derby County 2-2 Luton Town
Millwall 0-2 Luton Town
Luton Town 0-0 Huddersfield Town
Luton Town 5-0 Coventry City
Matches played - 12
Wins - Luton Town 3-4 Middlesbrough
Draws - 5
Goals - Luton Town 15-13 Middlesbrough
Points - Luton Town 14-17 Middlesbrough
Luton Town 1-1 Middlesbrough - May 1, 2021
Middlesbrough 1-0 Luton Town - December 16, 2020
Middlesbrough 0-1 Luton Town - February 15, 2020
Luton Town 3-3 Middlesbrough - August 2, 2019
Middlesbrough 2-1 Luton Town - April 29, 1995
Luton Town 5-1 Middlesbrough - October 15, 1994
11th, won 6, drawn 3, lost 6
Goals scored 17, goals conceded 15
Clean sheets 6
10th, won 5, drawn 6, lost 4
Goals scored 23, goals conceded 20
Clean sheets 7
For Middlesbrough, the Birmingham game produced a mixed bag on the injury front.
Anfernee Dijksteel was fit enough to return to the bench, however, the hard-fought encounter left Boro boss Neil Warnock with even more injury headaches.
Uche Ikpeazu hobbled off just before half-time, and it appears that Warnock is unsure as to how serious his knock was, saying: "I don't actually know how Uche is. He just felt the back of his leg when he missed the header."
On Monday he added: "Uche's having a scan, I don't think he'll be available."
Martin Payero was able to play the full 90 minutes on Saturday, however Warnock revealed after the game that the Argentinean had been struggling all afternoon, saying: "Martin has felt something so we'll have to see how he is tomorrow.
"After two or three minutes he said he'd carry on and see how it goes." On Monday, Warnock updated his situation, saying: "Martin isn't training today either, I don't think it's a strain as much as fatigue. It's a tough league to come into physically."
As for The Hatters, they also have a couple of injuries to contend with. Standout central midfielder Luke Berry is unlikely to be fit after sustaining a knee injury vs
Hull City two games prior.
Also picking up a knock in that game was Luton's star striker Elijah Adebayo, who
felt his hamstring slightly and was swiftly taken off by Nathan Jones as a precaution.
Speaking after that Hull game, Jones said: "Adebayo's was a tight hamstring, so we don't want to risk anything. Berry opens his knee up slightly in terms of his medial so we'll see how they are there."
No further updates have yet been provided on Adebayo's injury status, but it appears likely that he will have to undertake a last-minute fitness on Tuesday if he is to play, but he has a chance.
Reflecting on his sides loss to Birmingham City, a frustrated Middlesbrough boss Neil Warnock said: “It's disappointing. I didn't think they'd beat us, I thought we beat ourselves if I'm honest.
“I think we could still be playing know and we wouldn't have scored. One or two lads were below par, second half in particular.
“The first half for me would've made them change certain things but we couldn't score the goal and you're always going to get punished if you give goals away like we have.”
Goalkeeper Joe Lumley came in for some heavy criticism for his role in Blues' opening goal, but Warnock refused to publicly criticise the Boro keeper, saying: "You don't have to really ask me. You can put out what you want about that.
"For me, Uche's miss is just as bad as making a cock up like that because if Uche scores, we win the game."
Speaking after his sides first defeat in five against Preston, a disappointed, yet honest Hatters boss Nathan Jones said: “We didn't really look like scoring today as we didn't do the basics well enough.
“The penalty obviously right before half time, two of us going to ground, cheap defending and that's what cost us, but we were a mile off it today.
"But we haven't had a performance like that for a little bit, so it brings us back down to earth a bit."
Ending his post-match interview in his trademark brutally honest style, Jones stated: "I've got no complaints, yes, we huffed and puffed and if we'd only got an early goal but realistically we didn't have it, and I can't remember one person playing well today, I really can't."
Middlesbrough (3-4-1-2): GK: Joe Lumley DEF: Lee Peltier, Paddy McNair, Sol Bamba
MID: Marcus Tavernier, Matt Crooks, Jonny Howson (C), Isaiah Jones, Martin Payero ATT: Andraž Šporar, Duncan Watmore
Luton Town (3-4-1-2): GK: Simon Sulga DEF: Tom Lockyer, Sonny Bradley (C), Kal Naismith MID: James Bree, Jordan Clark, Henri Lansbury, Amari'i Bell, Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu ATT: Harry Cornick, Fred Onyedinma
In my last Boro Breakdown preview, I had Boro beating Cardiff City 1-0, coming oh so close to making it two out of two in my score predictions. This one is a really tough call however, anyhow, here's how I see this upcoming tussle with Luton Town playing out.
The Hatters are hoping to move out of their Kenilworth Road home in 2024, as the club looks to continue their upward trajectory, with the aim of modelling the success of Brentford. But for now, their home since 1905 is a fortress that many invaders have failed to lay siege to, as the Hatters are unbeaten at home in five games.
And this traditional British footballing amphitheatre is not only one of the games' last bastions in this country, it is also one of the best welcomes to English football for players from foreign seas such as Martin Payero and James Lea Siliki.
So as the travelling red army file into the away end via a gap between two terraced houses' front doors (literally), can they expect to see a Middlesbrough win?
I don't think so. I'll always try to be as unbiased as I possibly can when putting these previews together, so when I see a game that doesn't fill me with confidence, I won't suppress it.
Both teams will be desperate to bounce back from disappointing losses, and if Luton respond by getting back to their best - which I think they will -, then I believe their potent attack will prove too much for a surely fatigued Boro backline.
The fitness of Adebayo will be hugely important too, as it is evident that The Hatters missed their hitman massively last weekend. But even if he's not fit enough to play a part on Tuesday, Luton still have six goal man Harry Cornick, and the talented Fred Onyedinma to test Boro's defence with.
They possess a typically well organised defence, experienced central midfielders, effective wing-backs, and are one of the divisions highest scorers. I just can't help but see the home side being too strong for the Boro in this one.
Prediction: Luton Town 2-1 Middlesbrough
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