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Luton Town vs Watford Preview: Rivalry Returns Amidst Watford Promotion Push

Saturday Lunchtime sees the first game between Watford and Luton at Kenilworth Road in over fifteen years, with both sides eager for the bragging rights in this bitter rivalry.

For Watford, it provides an opportunity to complete a league double over their rivals, a feat they haven't achieved since the 1986/87 campaign in the old Division One. As for the Hatters, the prospect of upsetting the Hornets' promotion push is one worth pursuing with full enthusiasm, especially given their almost mathematical league safety.

Luton Head Coach Nathan Jones was critical of both sides in the reverse fixture, suggesting that the clash didn't feel like a derby. "To be honest it was probably one of the most lacklustre derbies you will ever see, I’m not sure anyone in the ground actually realised it was a derby. From our players, their players, their manager, their staff. Their staff were appealing for yellow cards on every single challenge and I’m not sure there was a tackle in the game." He'll be sure to instil a more fiery attitude in his squad this time on home soil.

As for Xisco Munoz, the Watford Head Coach assured that he and his squad understand the history of this fixture. "It's important to have full commitment and its important to know about the history." He also referenced Watford's 4-0 win at Kenilworth Road from 1997, joking that "Everyone on social media" has sent him the triumphant victory.

In terms of team news, Watford are waiting to hear from the medical team with regards to Tom Cleverley, William Troost-Ekong and Nathaniel Chalobah's condition. The trio face late fitness tests, with Tom Cleverley hoping to return for his first match since the third of March. Troy Deeney will be at the game to support the team as confirmed by teammate Ben Foster in an interview, but it's almost certain he'll miss out on the squad as he nurses an achilles injury.

Tom Dele-Bashiru may feature before the end of the season, but he also won't be back fit in time for Saturday Lunchtime.

 

The Opposition

There's a popular belief in football that form is irrelevant in a derby, which may fall in Luton's favour. They're doing fairly well at the moment, winning three out of their last five in the Championship. They don't tend to score many, averaging under a goal per game, but have only conceded one fewer than seventh placed Reading, which may tell the story as to where their strengths lie. Leicester loanee Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, a 22 year-old midfielder, has been key to their defensive structure, sitting in front of the back four. Other players to look out for include former West Ham Academy graduate George Moncur, who leads his side for assists and is a creative threat in the middle of the park, and young striker Elijah Adebayo, who has been in good form recently, popping up with goals and assists to help his side secure safety. 

There are a couple of absentees ahead of the big game; midfielder Eunan O'Kane continues his rehabilitation, as does defender Tom Lockyer.

Nathan Jones' side typically operate in a 3-4-3, but have changed to a 4-3-1-2 in the past month. It's likely Jones will opt for the latter, allowing an attacking duo to try and break down the Watford backline.

 

Head-to-Head

The most recent fixture between these sides came in September. Joao Pedro's birthday goal was enough for Watford to secure all three points, with the goal coming moments after an open-goal miss from Luton Striker James Collins.

The last meeting at Kenilworth Road also resulted in a Hornets victory. Carlos Edwards second half effort wasn't enough to beat Darius Henderson and Malky Mackay's goals in the first 45.

Luton haven't beaten their arch-rivals on home territory since 1993, and not at all since 2002, a record they'll be looking to turn around this lunchtime.

 

Who's the Threat?

Luton Town: Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall

Leicester City's academy graduates thrive on loan in the Championship as proven by Harvey Barnes' rise to the top, and Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall is enjoying his own success. He's racked up four assists from holding midfield and generally looked very comfortable since stepping up to Championship football (he spent the majority of last season at Blackpool). The midfield battle will be key to this one, so keep an eye out for the 22 year-old.

Watford: Ismaila Sarr

His two goals in last week's win over Reading were a flurry of fast-paced but well-taken efforts, and he deserved the plaudits received for another high-level performance. Luton often struggle in wide areas, and Ismaila Sarr is capable of causing any team problems, so we could see the winger replicate Friday's output once again.

 

 

Elliot's Score Prediction:

Luton have very little to play for this time out, which can often be to a team's advantage. With Watford under pressure to perform, but also demonstrating a higher level of quality throughout the season, anything could happen. I think the visitors will see out this one, but only just.

Luton Town 0-1 Watford

Kick-Off: Saturday 12:30pm, Kenilworth Road

Televised? No, but available on Hive Live and iFollow

Referee: Gavin Ward

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