It has been dubbed “the richest match in football.”
To the winner comes promotion to the English Premier League and all its high-end trappings, most notably a substantial increase in television rights fees that could provide more than $200 million to a club over the next three seasons playing in the world’s most-watched domestic soccer league. That dollar figure increases by approximately 50% over five seasons should the club avoid relegation in its first season in the top flight.
It also brings trips to the storied pitches of England, including Old Trafford, Anfield, Stamford Bridge, and St James’ Park.
Coventry City and Luton Town get the English football spotlight to themselves Saturday at Wembley Stadium in London for the Championship’s final promotion spot to the Premier League. This match has usually produced 90 minutes or more of agonizing tension for supporters of the clubs, in addition to the immense pressure on those actually playing. The unique nature of this contest also means ample sports wagering opportunities are available at most mobile sportsbooks in the U.S.
How we got here
This is an entrance to Luton Town’s ground Kenilworth Road. Enter through the row homes. If they win promotion they may have to spend as much as $12.5 Million to get it in compliance with Premier League standards.🚪😲pic.twitter.com/yIZTswvI1z
— Men in Blazers (@MenInBlazers) May 16, 2023
Luton Town finished third in the Championship, 21 points behind champion Burnley, while Coventry City was another 10 points adrift in fifth. Burnley and runner-up Sheffield United received automatic promotion to the Premier League, leaving teams placed third through sixth to vie for the final promotion spot in two-legged playoffs to reach Wembley.
Luton Town overturned a 2-1 deficit in its second-leg tie versus Sunderland, winning 2-0 at home to advance 3-2 on aggregate. Coventry City stifled Middlesbrough over both legs of their semifinal tie, with Gustavo Hamer’s goal in the 57th minute of the second leg on the road at Riverside providing a 1-0 aggregate scoreline.
The teams played to draws in both matchups this season, 2-2 at Luton Town in September and 1-1 at Coventry City in February. Luton Town has three wins and three draws against Coventry City since the Sky Blues were promoted to the Championship in 2020, but Coventry City proved resilient in both contests this season, erasing one-goal deficits on three occasions to help salvage the single points. Coventry City also has 41 wins to Luton Town’s 29 in 88 all-time meetings in a series that dates back to 1908.
The Hatters have never been in the Premier League and were relegated from the First Division in 1992, the season before the Premier League started. They’ve been in the English football wilderness this century, being relegated three straight seasons and landing in the Conference Premier in 2009, playing a level below the Football League for the first time since 1920.
Luton Town won promotion to League Two by winning the Conference Premier in 2014 and was promoted in back-to-back seasons in 2018 and 2019 to return to the Championship. The Hatters have been in strong form, with their first-leg loss at Sunderland their lone defeat in 16 matches (9-6-1) spanning all competitions.
Coventry City has tasted Premier League life previously, but not since being relegated at the end of the 2000-01 season. The Sky Blues have also endured tough times, dropping to League Two as recently as 2017 before bouncing back with two promotions in the subsequent three seasons. Coventry City enters this game with just one loss in its last 19 contests (9-9-1), a run that started with its 1-1 draw at home versus Luton.
Oddsmakers expect low-scoring affair
Coventry City are one game away from the Premier League.
It’s been a very bumpy road, including coming from League Two, administration and having to play home games at different grounds outside of the city.
Here’s the story of how they got here…
— The Second Tier (@secondtierpod) May 23, 2023
Oddsmakers have Luton Town as the favorite to win and secure promotion to the Premier League. The Hatters’ price to accomplish the feat is in a relatively narrow band, with WynnBET‘s +150 the best offering, followed by +145 at FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM, and Betway. DraftKings and Betway have the best offerings for Coventry City to win in regulation at +225, closely followed by Betfred and WynnBET at +220.
For those who think the match will go to extra time, Luton Town is a notable favorite for the “lift the trophy” play, ranging from -135 at Hard Rock to -160 at DraftKings. Hard Rock is also the best play for Coventry City at this angle at +110, followed by DraftKings and Caesars Sportsbook at +105.
The match also figures to be a cagey affair, with whoever scores first likely to bunker into a defensive shell to protect that lead. Oddsmakers are expecting the match to finish under 2.5 goals, with FanDuel’s -170 the best play on the under. Only two of the previous 10 Championship playoff finals have had more than two goals, and one of those occasions had the third goal come after extra time. But those who think three or more goals are in the offing should head to Hard Rock and Betway, where the over was listed at +150.
That expected defensive mindset has created an expectation among oddsmakers that at least one team will go scoreless, and there is a similar track record to the under for this to take place. Eight of the last 10 finals have seen one team shut out, with only the 2-1 scorelines in 2019 and 2020 bucking that trend.
FanDuel has the best offering for the “no” option at -122, followed by -125 at DraftKings, Betfred, and Betway. Those who think Luton Town and Coventry City can dent each other’s nets for the third time in as many matches this season are best served at Caesars, WynnBET, Hard Rock, and Betway, as they are all listing +105 for both teams to score.
For individual goal scorers, Luton Town’s Carlton Morris is a consensus top option, available at +200 at FanDuel, BetRivers, and Betfred. Morris scored both goals in the 2-2 draw between the teams in September and paced the Hatters with 20 goals in all competitions. Elijah Adebayo is the clear-cut second choice among Luton players, available at +265 at BetRivers and +250 at BetMGM.
Coventry City’s top scoring threat is Viktor Gyokeres, who has 21 goals in all competitions. BetMGM has the best play for him at +230, just above the most common offering of +220 at multiple sportsbooks. Matt Godden, whose penalty provided the equalizer in the draw versus Luton Town at home, is a +350 pick at DraftKings, BetMGM, and Betway. Hamer, who has 10 goals and 10 assists, is a +500 option to score at those three books.
Photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images