PREVIEW: Swansea City v Luton Town

Hatters head to Wales again this weekend
Luton celebrate James Collins' winner at Swansea last seasonLuton celebrate James Collins' winner at Swansea last season
Luton celebrate James Collins' winner at Swansea last season

Swansea are already giving a fair indication that they will be featuring in a push for the Premier League once more this term, making a solid start to the campaign.

Steve Cooper's side managed to reach the play-offs last season in quite remarkable fashion, as requiring a five goal swing on the final day, they achieved that with a 4-1 win over Reading, while Nottingham Forest lost 4-1 to Stoke City.

Although the Swans then beat Brentford 1-0 in the opening leg of their semi-final, a 3-1 reverse at Griffin Park condemned the Welsh outfit to another campaign in the second tier.

Looking for a bright opening, a Carabao Cup defeat at Newport County was quickly brushed aside with three wins from the opening four league games, including away triumphs at Preston and Wycombe, only conceding one goal in those fixtures.

A 2-1 home defeat to Huddersfield and then draws at Coventry City and Bristol City were quickly put to bed too by beating Stoke and Blackburn Rovers at the Liberty Stadium.

The slightly iffy away form was to continue, although drawing at Brentford and losing 1-0 to Norwich weren't disastrous results by any means, and Cooper's men remained strong in Wales, defeating Rotherham 1-0.

A 1-1 draw with Sheffield Wednesday followed, as the Swans did pick up a victory the road, 1-0 at Nottingham Forest last weekend, before a 2-1 reverse to Middlesbrough in midweek, to leave them seventh place, just two points off the top.

Cooper strengthened an already strong squad in the summer, bringing in Bristol City midfielder Korey Smith and also swooping for Wigan's Jamal Lowe, shelling out £800,000.

The former England U17s boss also brought in QPR midfielder Ryan Manning, plus duo Ryan Bennett and Joel Latibeaudiere from Wolves and Manchester City respectively.

However, Bersant Celina moved on to Dijon, with Dusseldorf taking Kristoffer Peterson, while Mike van der Hoorn and Erwin Mulder departed as well.

On transfer deadline day, the Swans lost a player to the top flight for the third season running, centre half Joe Rodon moving to Spurs, after Ollie McBurnie headed to Sheffield United and Daniel James went to Manchester United in the two previous years.

The Swans have used the loan market though, Freddie Woodman (Newcastle), Marc Guehi (Chelsea), Morgan Gibbs-White (Wolves), Kasey Palmer (Bristol City) and Viktor Gyokeres (Brighton) all moving in.

A lack of goals is what the only slight concern for Cooper so far, managing just 17 in their opening 15 games, and just five in their last six outings.

Having lost the talents of Rhian Brewster in the summer, as he headed back to Liverpool and then on to Sheffield United, although Andre Ayew has six to his name, Lowe has managed just two, with Gyokeres not off the mark.

Cooper told Wales Online: “You always want an out and out striker who's going to get you more goals than anybody else in the team, it's always a nice thing to have.

"But as I always say, we'll get as best we can out of the boys we've got, try to put the right plan together and get it to work as best we can and see if it can win us games.

"They're the only options we've got. But I believe in the players. Only a few days ago, everything was really positive and rosy."

Team news: Luton could be without skipper Sonny Bradley once more due to a personal issue, while Simon Sluga isn't expected to be fit either, Martin Cranie due to miss out as well.

Elliot Lee and Kazenga LuaLua could be absent, but there is hope for Danny Hylton and Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, with both Dan Potts and Brendan Galloway back fit again too.

For Swansea Morgan Gibbs-White is still a long-term absentee and George Byers is a doubt.

Top scorers: Hatters: James Collins (6). Swans: Andre Ayew (6).

Milestones: James Bree will make his 50th appearance if he plays on Saturday.

The 22-year-old arrived on loan last season, turning that move into a permanent deal during the summer and is yet to notch a first goal.

Man in the middle: Leigh Doughty – another first time referee for the Hatters, their second in successive weekends.

Had nine games so far, showing 27 yellows, including eight in his last game between Millwall and Reading, although hasn't produced a red card yet.

Officiated 27 matches last season, with 82 yellows and two years and has been fast-tracked to the Championship after spending the 2018-19 campaign refereeing in the National League.

Assistant referees are James Wilson and Graham Kane, with the fourth official Matthew Donohue

In charge: Steve Cooper - 40-year-old who began his playing career with Wrexham, but never made a first team appearance.

Featured for Rhyl, Bangor City, The New Saints and Porthmadog, before studying for his coaching badges and started work at Wrexham's academy, named head of youth development.

In September 2008, went to Liverpool to coach the U12s, appointed as manager of the Reds' academy in July 2011.

In 2013, he joined the FA as a youth coach educator, before becoming England U16s manager in October 2014, taking charge of the U17s the following year.

Led his side to the final of the 2017 UEFA European U17 Championship, where they lost to Spain, before winning the 2017 FIFA U17 World Cup in October 2017, beating Spain 5-2 in the final.

Appointed head coach of Championship club Swansea City in June 2019 on a three-year contract.

View from the opposition: Steve Cooper talking to the Swans official website: “It was a disappointing night (against Middlesbrough) and I am certainly not going to stand here and make any excuses.

“We demand better of ourselves, we know we are capable of better and, while there are a lot of games and travelling, I am not going to use those things as excuses.

“But what I would say is I believe in these players, and as a coaching staff we believe in these players.

“So far this season we have not had too many reasons for disappointment and, with this group, we know they will respond in the right way.

“We now look ahead to Luton, and we will be fully focused on turning in a better performance and hopefully getting a good result.”

One to watch: Andre Ayew -30-year Ghanian striker, who started his career at Marseille, before joining Swansea in June 2015, scoring 12 goals in 34 Premier League appearances.

That saw West Ham part with over £20m for him in August 2016, as he netted nine times in 43 top flight games for the Hammers.

Swansea then forked out £18m to take him back to Wales in January 2018 but he didn't score in the second half of the season.

Joined Turkish side Fenerbahce on a season-long, returning to Swansea once more, and bagged 18 goals last campaign, including the winner in 1-0 success at Kenilworth Road,.

Up and running this year, with six to his name for the Swans, also scoring two in Ghana's 5-1 win over Qatar.

Friendly faces: Rhys Norrington-Davies - after being born in Saudi Arabia, the full back moved to Wales and was at Swansea City before joining Sheffield United's academy in 2017.

Since then he has been on loan at Barrow and Rochdale, moving to Kenilworth Road in the summer.

Luton's head of academy coaching and professional player development Adrian Forbes played 79 times for the Hatters between 2001-2004, scoring 19 goals, before moving to Swansea in June 2004.

He featured over 80 times for the Swans, scoring 12 goals, including the last goal at Vetch Field in April 2005,m, before going into academy coaching when retiring, and returned to the Hatters last summer.

Played for both: Jernade Meade – born in Luton, the left winger was with Bramingham FC before snapped up by Arsenal at the age of 11.

Featured twice for Gunners, moving to Swansea in July 2013, regularly playing for the Swans' U21 side.

In January 2014, moved to Luton on loan for the remainder of the season when signed by John Still, but never made a first team appearance for Town and was released by Swansea that summer.

Played for St Albans City and Hadley, heading to Swedish Superettan side AFC Eskilstuna and then going to Norwegian team Aalesund in March 2018.

We've got form: Luton have usually suffered since games started against Swansea Town in the Southern League, going down to a 2-0 defeat on March 29, 1913.

They triumphed the following season, before a 24-year winless run was ended in 1938 by a 3-2 Division Two triumph.

Hatters managed four victories, six draws and 11 defeats while Swansea were called Town, as they then became City in 1969.

Luton lost their first four visits, before a 3-1 win in the new Division Three in March 2002, Matthew Taylor, Peter Holmes and Steve Howard scoring.

They promptly lost the next two, although recovered to earn a vital win last season when lockdown was over.

Goals have been hard to come by in Wales, Luton drawing five blanks in those eight fixtures as overall, Town have won six, drawn seven and lost 16 of their 29 visits, scoring 26 goals and conceding 49.

Last time out: Luton gave their Great Escape a huge shot in the arm by winning 1-0 at Swansea City last season.

In their second game back following lockdown, Town grabbed the only goal of the game with 18 minutes to go through James Collins' imperious header from Izzy Brown's cross.

The hosts also had substitute Jordan Garrick sent off in the 83rd minute to compound their misery.

Hatters: Simon Sluga, Matty Pearson, Dan Potts (Martin Cranie 89), Sonny Bradley, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Glen Rea, Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, Jacob Butterfield (Izzy Brown 59), Elliot Lee (James Bree 69), Harry Cornick (Danny Hylton 89), James Collins.

Subs not used: James Shea, Ryan Tunnicliffe, Callum McManaman, Andrew Shinnie, George Moncur

Referee: Andy Woolmer.