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Luton v Middlesbrough preview: Promotion hopefuls look hard to split

While Burnley have secured promotion back to the Premier League and Sheffield United are poised to join them, Luton and Middlesbrough have proved to be the best of the rest in the Championship and they meet at Kenilworth Road on Monday.

There was a time when this game looked as though it could be crucial, but both teams have done enough to secure their berth in the play-offs and are set to have home advantage in the second leg of their semi-finals.

Victory for either would still give them a glimmer of hope of automatic promotion, but with that looking unrealistic, we could be about to witness a dress rehearsal for the second-tier play-off final, which will be held at Wembley on Saturday 27th May.

WhatLuton Town v Middlesbrough
WhereKenilworth Road, Luton
When20:00, Monday 24th April, 2023
How to watchSky Sports Football & Main Event
OddsLuton 5/4, Draw 5/2, Middlesbrough 21/10

Luton tough to see off at home

Kenilworth Road will never be considered one of the most glamorous grounds in the Championship, but Luton have flourished there this season and have given themselves a great chance of claiming promotion to the Premier League for the first time.

Only leaders Burnley have taken a full return from their trip to Bedfordshire in Luton’s last 17 matches and, if the Hatters fail in gaining a ticket to the promised land, they may rue the number of draws they have accumulated this term.

Only Rotherham went into the weekend topping Luton’s total of 15 draws, but eight defeats in the entire campaign demonstrates just how tough they have been to beat, so Middlesbrough will not be able to take anything for granted.

Their home matches have hardly been goal-filled affairs - those considering backing over 2.5 goals at 1/1 may wish to consider that there have been more than three in just two of their last 17 games at Kenilworth Road, and with four home wins, including one over arch-rivals Watford, Rob Edwards’ team will be confident they can oblige for those who back them at 5/4 to take the three points.

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Boro are the goal kings of the Championship

While Luton have been tough to beat this term, much of Middlesbrough’s progress is down to their ability in the final third, as not even champions-elect Burnley can top their tally of 82 Championship goals this season.

They also have the second-tier’s leading marksman in Chuba Akpom, who has scored nine goals in his last nine league games, with the Arsenal academy graduate 5/1 to score the first goal in the match, and 2/1 to find the net at any time.

Boro, who are 21/10 to win Monday’s game, are a point behind Luton but they have been positive in the last couple of months as they have tried to give themselves a chance of at least catching Sheffield United.

That effort looks to have been in vain, but they head to Kenilworth Road having posted a 5-1 win over Norwich at the Riverside and a 3-1 victory with a strong second-half recovery against Hull City.

Michael Carrick is doing an excellent job in his first managerial role and one of the characteristics under his leadership has been the positivity Boro have shown on the road.

They have scored at least twice in seven of their last nine Championship away games, so they are unlikely to have any fear about heading to Luton.

Just two of their last 15 away matches have featured fewer than three goals, so there is a chance that they will not hold back if they wish to gain a psychological advantage over a team who could be one of their chief promotion rivals.

Strong cases can be made for both teams

It is difficult to know what sort of mood these teams will be in for a clash which will have little bearing on their league position.

There are positives to take for both teams. Luton are excellent at home and only Burnley have suffered fewer defeats this season than Edwards’ side, while Middlesbrough have been strong in the attacking third for most of the season and have a striker to be feared.

However, thoughts are bound to be turning towards the playoffs with just a couple of regular-season matches to go, so 4/5 that there are fewer than three goals could be of interest and, as the teams look well matched, the 5/2 odds for it to finish as a draw could also attract support.

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