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After achieving a playoff finish in the Championship last season, many doubted the ability of Nathan Jones‘s men to pick themselves up after a semi-final defeat to Huddersfield Town and push once again for an unlikely promotion to the Premier League.
The Hatters were able to retain the services of star players such as Elijah Adebayo in the summer and have made some shrewd additions to the squad, actions that have allowed the club to stay on the coattails of the top six after 16 games of this campaign.
Four games without victory at the start of the year raised concerns of a Barnsley-style trajectory in which Luton would be fighting off relegation to the third tier after securing a playoff place in the year before, but a run of only two losses in their last 12 has everyone involved with the club looking upwards instead of towards the lower reaches of the table.
Forward Carlton Morris arrived from the aforementioned Tykes in the summer, and has netted a team-leading seven times this season, taking some of the attacking burden off Adebayo who was the club’s primary source of goals in their promotion push last year.
If Jones’s men are to repeat or better their finish last season they must improve on their form at Kenilworth Road, where they have only won twice so far this campaign from eight opportunities in front of their raucous home faithful.
That defeat means Tony Mowbray‘s side have lost three of their last four in the Championship and have consequently slipped to 16th in the standings after a flying start that saw them inside the top six.
It must be said that those trio of defeats have come against top Championship sides in Swansea City, Blackburn Rovers and most recently Burnley, with Sunderland showing over the course of the season so far that they have more than enough to survive at this level after a four-year tussle with England’s third tier.
A trip to Bedfordshire is an unfamiliar one for Sunderland, having only played at Kenilworth Road once in the last 15 years, with that rare matchup a 2018-19 League One encounter that ended in a share of the spoils.
Luton Town will once again be without defender Reece Burke due to a hamstring strain he picked up against Hull City at the end of September, an injury which has seen the 26-year-old sit out of his side’s last five Championship games.
Jones will be unable to call on the services of Gabriel Osho when the Black Cats visit on Saturday, as the young central defender was sent off at Vicarage Road against Watford last time out.
Mowbray could welcome back striker Ellis Simms to the matchday squad after missing the last seven matches with ligament damage sustained in the 3-0 win over Reading. Simms trained with the team at Wednesday’s open session at the Stadium of Light and is likely to play some part on Saturday.
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Patrick Roberts is a doubt for a trip to Luton after missing the Burnley clash last weekend and not taking part in some training sessions this week.
Dan Ballard (foot), Ross Stewart (thigh) and Aji Alese will all be sidelined until after the World Cup to the frustration of boss Mowbray and the Sunderland faithful.
Luton Town possible starting lineup:
Horvath; Lockyer, Bradley, Bell; Bree, Cornick, Clark, Doughty, Campbell; Morris, Adebayo
Sunderland possible starting lineup:
Patterson; Hume, O’Nien, Batth, Cirkin; Evans, Neil, Diallo, Embleton, Pritchard; Clarke