Blues to bounce back from Wembley disappointment

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Luton v Chelsea
Wednesday March 2, 19:15
BBC

Luton move into the top-six

Luton boss Nathan Jones labelled February as a ‘great month’ for his side as they made it five wins out of six by beating relegation-threatened Derby 1-0 at Kenilworth Road on Saturday. The weekend success was also the Hatters’ third consecutive Championship victory, the first time Town have managed that feat at this level since 1995/96.

The latest victory moved Luton into the play-off places and Jones was full of praise for his players, saying: “We have taken 15 out of 18 points which is a phenomenal month to have in the Championship. We haven’t gone three on the bounce before and that’s all I wanted. I literally didn’t care how we got it, it was all about the result, all about the result this time.”

Luton’s decisive strike arrived with only their second attempt on-target when Cameron Jerome nodded down to Danny Hylton, who slotted home from the edge of the box. Jones had made just one change to his team with Hylton dropping to the bench, replaced by midfielder Henri Lansbury. New signing Robert Snodgrass was also among the substitutes.

Chelsea beaten on penalties

Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel defended Kepa Arrizabalaga and insisted he had “no regrets” about his decision to bring the goalkeeper on in the final minute of extra-time against Liverpool in Sunday’s cup final. The Blues were beaten on penalties at Wembley, with Kepa brought on for the shootout because of his reputation for saving spot-kicks.

However, after every outfield player and then Liverpool cat Caoimhin Kelleher had scored with their penalty, Kepa blasted his over, handing Liverpool the trophy.

Tuchel said: “I feel bad for him of course, but no blame. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it does not work out. This is the life of a football coach. So no regrets, and if there is blame then blame on me. I’m very proud of the team’s performance – it could easily have gone either way and we should not lose sleep over the result.”

Tuchel is expected to rest and rotate his XI this midweek. Kai Havertz and Edouard Mendy may make way, with Romelu Lukaku and Kepa potentially starting from the off. Trevoh Chalobah could be in line for another start in defence with Andreas Christensen a major doubt. Reece James could also return from the off after recovering from injury.

Luton and Chelsea have crossed swords twice in cup competitions since their last league duels back in 1991. The Blues triumphed 2-0 in the FA Cup at Stamford Bridge back in 1994 and ran out 3-1 victors when the duo met in the same competition last season. However, the Hatters boast a strong W7-D5-L1 home record when entertaining Chelsea since 1962.

Luton 8.207/1 are top of the six-game Championship form table (W5-D1-L0) and have returned an exceptional W9-D2-L2 in league action since the beginning of December to charge into the play-off places. Nathan Jones’ outfit are unbeaten against top-half teams at Kenilworth Road and comfortably ousted Harrogate and Cambridge en-route to this stage.

Chelsea 1.402/5 have suffered only two defeats in 90 minutes across all competitions since September and the Blues appear to be getting over their mid-season wobble. Thomas Tuchel’s team have conceded only five goals in their past 12 outings, although the capital club did leak when overcoming Plymouth and Chesterfield in earlier rounds of the cup.

Chelsea’s impressive rearguard efforts, coupled with their own final-third flaws, has led to 10 consecutive Under 2.5 Goals winners. A repeat has been chalked up at 2.0811/10 for Wednesday night’s encounter and could go close again considering Luton have shipped multiple goals in only three of their most recent 15 outings since November.

I’m expecting the cup specialists to bounce back from their Wembley disappointment. The 1-0 and 2-0 Chelsea victories head the Correct Score betting, but with the goal expectancy around the 2.80 mark, I’m happy to cover the most likely scenario – a Blues triumph – alongside a relatively low-scoring match-up in Bedfordshire.

With that in mind, backing Chelsea to win and Under 3.5 Goals appeals at 1.981/1 quotes on the Bet Builder.

All bar one of the Blues’ 12 away day triumphs this term arrived alongside Under 3.5 Goals, whilst only three of their past 18 matches across all venues produced four or more goals, one of which arrived against fifth tier Chesterfield at Stamford Bridge.