English Championship Playoffs: Sunderland vs Luton Town & Coventry City vs Middlesbrough Previews

English Championship Playoffs: Sunderland vs Luton Town & Coventry City vs Middlesbrough Previews article feature image

Bradley Collyer/Getty. Pictured Luton Town.

It's time for the English Championship playoffs, where a promotional spot to the Premier League is on the line.

The first round is a two leg tie with the winners meeting at Wembley for one match to decide who goes to the Premier League.

If you'd like to see my projections for the Championship, along with Premier League and numerous other league around Europe, you can find them here.

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English Championship


Sunderland vs Luton Town

Sunderland Odds+170
Luton Town Odds+190
Over/Under2.5 (+135 / -165)
Day | TimeSaturday | 12:30 p.m. ET
How To WatchESPN+
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute Soccer odds here.

This is a fascinating matchup given the style of play of both teams.

Luton Town are in their second straight season in the playoff and they play direct, with almost all of their scoring chances coming in extremely quick transitional opportunities. All credit goes to them though, because they've had a ton of success with this style of play, putting up a +0.31 xGD per 90 minutes, which is fifth-best in the Championship.

Luton Town play a style that is somewhat similar to that of Newcastle, where they like concede possession to their opponents, set up pressing traps and get chances to counter. It has been successful for them because they have a PPDA of 11.1 and have forced 390 high turnovers, which is the most in the Championship this season.

sunderland-luton town

image via the Analyst

Sunderland, on the other hand, like to play a slower style with a bigger emphasis on controlling possession, but they are a team that has the ability to play very direct as well. Per the Analyst, Sunderland have 78 build up attacks compared to 77 direct attacks.

They are limping into this final, with all three of their main center backs Danny Batth, Aji Alese and Daniel Ballard all going to miss the match. So, the question for Sunderland is do they chose to be very direct and get into an end to end style match with the best transition team in the second division or do they try to build out of the back against the best high pressing team in the Championship without any of their center backs healthy?

Neither are good options and since they are at home in this first leg, the pressure is going to be on them to control the match and first leg advantage in front of their home fans.

I like the value on Luton Town to advance over the two legs at -140.

Pick: Luton Town to Advance (-140)

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Coventry City vs Middlesbrough

Coventry City Odds+150
Middlesbrough Odds+180
Over/Under2.5 (+110 / -136)
Day | TimeSunday | 7 a.m. ET
How To WatchESPN+
Odds via BetRivers. Get up-to-the-minute Soccer odds here.

Michael Carrick has turned Middlesbrough into one of the best teams in the Championship and they play a style very similar to that of Arsenal. Since his arrival on October 25th, he’s taken Middlesbrough from 15th to 4th in the table. Since he’s taken over, Middlesbrough have a +0.57 xGD. 

It’s a 4-2-3-1 formation, but it’s incredibly fluid, especially on build up play. Middlesbrough will typically push a full back high when they start building out of the back which creates a 3-2-5 build up shape, allowing them to create overloads against the last line of defense. It’s also important for Middlesbrough to have good width to stretch the defense and allow them to have 1 v 1 opportunities in wide areas. 

This type of system has former Arsenal striker Chupa Akpom flourishing, as he’s won the golden boot in the Championship with 28 goals and a 0.63 xG per 90 minute scoring rate.

Coventry City are set up as one of the more direct counterattacking teams in the Championship, playing out of a 3-5-2, but they are one of biggest defensive over performers in the Championship.

They have conceded 44 goals off 54.8 xG and all of that over-performance has been on set pieces, as they’ve allowed 18.6 xG, but have only conceded six times. Middlesbrough are a top five team in terms of xG per set piece. 

I have Middlesbrough projected as a slight favorite, so I like the value on them draw no bet at +102.

Pick: Middlesbrough – Draw No Bet (+102)

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