Wembley Stadium forms the backdrop for a highly-anticipated Championship play-off final between Coventry City and Luton Town on 27th May, i.e. Saturday afternoon.
Often considered the ‘richest football game in the world’ due to the significant financial rewards associated with top-flight football, the Championship play-off final is one of the most attractive fixtures on the European schedule.
But this season’s showpiece is particularly exciting after an epic ascent of Coventry and Luton throughout the years, culminating with the teams’ remarkable exploits in post-season match-ups.
It’s been 22 years since the Sky Blues last played in the Premier League, while they found themselves stuck in League Two as early as 2017/18, testifying to their impressive rise in recent seasons.
Mark Robins’ side defied the odds to oust a more heavily fancied Middlesbrough 1-0 on aggregate in the semi-finals, courtesy of Gustavo Hamer’s second-leg winner.
However, Coventry must overcome one final hurdle to reach ‘the promised land,’ with Luton seeking unprecedented success in the club’s long history of wandering between England’s lower divisions.
Rob Edwards’ men have a historic chance to become the first Bedfordshire-based team to compete in the Premier League only nine years after their promotion from the fifth tier.
First-half goals from Gabriel Osho and Tom Lockyer in the return leg of their semi-final tie against Sunderland helped the Hatters overturn a 2-1 first-leg deficit and book a final date at Wembley.
How to watch the Championship Playoffs final live on 27th May.
Searching for a place in Coventry folklore, manager Robins can draw confidence from his team’s outrageous run of just one defeat across their last 19 outings (W9, D9).
The Sky Blues embarked on that streak with a 1-1 draw against non-other than Luton in early February, a result that forms part of their underwhelming nine-game winless run against the Hatters (D5, L4).
But in addition to holding a decent-looking win ratio across four previous assignments at Wembley (W3, L1), Coventry boast an unbeaten record in the EFL play-offs (W3, D2).
Protecting that record will probably require a strong start, considering Robins’ men won none of their 17 league matches in which they conceded the opening goal during the regular season (D7, L10).
Unlike Coventry, Luton’s play-off fortunes cannot inspire much confidence in the Hatters ranks, as they’ve often choked in high-stakes fixtures, suffering five defeats in seven Wembley appearances (W2).
It’s not only Wembley. Edwards’ men somehow freeze whenever they play in the capital, as evidenced by their woeful record of 12 defeats across their last 15 competitive matches in London (W2, D1).
They’ve been on the receiving end in both previous play-off finals in the National League, casting further doubt on Edwards’ bid to make history on Saturday.
However, a stunning semi-final success against Sunderland proved Luton may have finally raised to the occasion, bolstering the team’s spirits ahead of the most significant showdown in the club’s history.
Coventry midfielder Hamer has recovered from a knee injury and should be fit for the grand final, but striker Tyler Walker’s availability remains a doubt.
Callum O’Hare and Fabio Tavares are out, though Kasey Palmer, who has returned to training after missing out on the semi-finals, could make the matchday squad.
As for Luton, free of injury concerns, Edwards should name the same starting XI that toppled Sunderland at Kenilworth Road last week.
Coventry City potential starting line-up:
(3-5-1-1): Ben Wilson; Luke McNally, Kyle McFadzean, Callum Doyle; Brooke Norton-Cuffy, Jamie Allen, Liam Kelly, Gustavo Hamer, Jake Bidwell; Ben Sheaf; Viktor Gyokeres.
Luton Town potential starting line-up:
(3-5-2): Ethan Horvarth; Gabriel Osho, Tom Lockyer, Amari’i Bell; Cody Drameh, Jordan Clark, Marvelous Nakamba, Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu, Alfie Doughty; Carlton Morris, Elijah Adebayo.
We Say: Coventry City 1-0 Luton Town
Coventry’s recent record against Luton doesn’t make for pretty reading, but with Viktor Gyokeres firing on all cylinders, we back the Sky Blues to narrowly edge out Edwards’ side.
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