Luton Town’s first top-flight home game in over 30 years falls on Friday as high-flying West Ham United arrive at Kenilworth Road.
After a thumping 4-1 defeat to Brighton & Hove Albion on the opening Premier League weekend, the Hatters hoped to bounce back in round two in front of their home fans.
However, ongoing work to bring Kenilworth Road up to Premier League standard forced the postponement of their day-two clash against fellow newcomers Burnley a week ago.
Rob Edwards’ side marked their homecoming fixture with an enthralling 3-2 win over lower-league Gillingham in midweek League Cup action, days after suffering a dreadful 3-0 defeat at Chelsea.
It seems our Luton 2023/24 season preview is on the money, with the Bedfordshire minnows living up to their tag as hot relegation candidates in the opening two league games.
West Ham’s visit on Friday will unlikely bring a change in scenery, considering David Moyes’ side have gone from strength to strength since eking out a 1-1 draw at Bournemouth on matchday one.
Despite being reduced to ten men in their opening home league game of the season, the Hammers trounced cross-city rivals Chelsea 3-1 before replicating that same scoreline at Brighton last weekend.
As anticipated in our West Ham 2023/24 season preview, Jarrod Bowen has been the Irons’ driving force in the wake of Declan Rice’s departure, already scoring twice in three Premier League outings.
James Ward-Prowse has proved a viable alternative for the new Arsenal midfielder, delivering an assist on his debut against Chelsea before breaking the deadlock at the Amex Stadium.
Last weekend’s disappointing result at Stamford Bridge left Luton waiting for their first top-flight victory since 1992, but maybe the upcoming home return could help them turn the corner.
Although it’s been three decades since Kenilworth Road last hosted a top-flight fixture, the Hatters can draw confidence from racking up an eight-game unbeaten home league run toward the end of last season (W8, D2).
Edward’s team registered five clean sheets during that eight-match sequence, which contradicts their woeful defensive showings in the early Premier League campaign.
Defensive resilience will be paramount again as Luton ran out 2-0 winners in their last home league meeting with West Ham back in 1993 while they were still in the Championship.
West Ham exchanged just 13 passes within the opening half an hour into their Saturday trip to Brighton but still grabbed an all-important first goal through Ward-Prowse.
Moyes’ side averaged 23% ball possession in their wins over Chelsea and the Seagulls, showing they can pack a punch even when they are forced to defend for most of the game.
Since West Ham are widely expected to have more control against Luton, they could find themselves in unfamiliar territory, with each of their three away league victories in 2023 seeing them lament under 40% possession.
The Hammers’ poor-performing backline will be under scrutiny after six consecutive Premier League travels without a clean sheet, hoping to record their first shutout in 2023/24.
Luton will be without the injured defensive duo Gabriel Osho and Dan Potts, while Jordan Clark’s availability remains questionable.
As for West Ham, after serving a one-game ban against Brighton, Nayef Aguerd returns to the fold and should reclaim his place in the starting line-up at the expense of Angelo Ogbonna.
Luton Town potential starting line-up:
(5-3-2): Thomas Kaminski; Issa Kabore, Reece Burke, Tom Lockyer, Amari’i Bell, Ryan Giles; Chong, Marvelous Nakamba, Ross Barkley; Elijah Adebayo, Carlton Morris.
West Ham United potential starting line-up:
(4-1-4-1): Alphonse Areola; Vladimir Coufal, Kurt Zouma, Nayef Aguerd, Emerson; Edson Alvarez; Jarrod Bowen, Lucas Paqueta, James Ward-Prowse, Said Benrahma; Michail Antonio.
We Say: Luton Town 1-2 West Ham United
While it’s hard to see Luton drawing a blank against West Ham’s fragile defence, we back the Hammers to outscore their troubled hosts and maintain their rich vein of form.
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