Nottingham Forest host Luton at the City Ground on Saturday October 21 as they look to edge out the relegation favourites and climb the Premier League table.
For the first game back after the international break, you couldn’t really ask for a more friendly fixture if Forest play their cards right.
Forest come into this off the back of a hard-fought goalless stalemate against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.
That was the Eagles’ third clean sheet in a row; a side who are tough to beat and on a high after beating struggling Manchester United 1-0 the week before.
The Reds will look register back-to-back clean sheets for only the first time since January and will see Luton as a perfect chance to capitalise and steer further away from the bottom three.
It’s not been a bad start for Forest – much better than last season – as they have won nine points from eight matches with a win at the City Ground this weekend potentially seeing them climb up to lofty ninth.
Luton started the season as everyone’s nailed on whipping boys, yet they find themselves out of the bottom three after victory against Everton at Goodison Park.
Unlucky not to earn at least a point from their game against high flying Spurs before the break, Luton will pose a threat and shouldn’t be underestimated.
After all, it was their determination and team spirit which took a should be team battling Championship relegation to the Premier league.
This game sees the return of Moussa Niakhate after a ban to bolster Forest’s backline, but top scorer Taiwo Awoniyi remains sidelined alongside Felipe, Danilo and Ola Aina.
There is every possibility Forest could find themselves without a recognized right-back for this one with summer signing Gonzalo Montiel doubtful and Serge Aurier’s groin problem to be assessed.
Steve Cooper’s men must be wary as this could provide Luton’s new signing and Premier League veteran, Andros Townsend freedom to fly if he were to make his debut this weekend.
The hole left by Awoniyi up top could be felt greatly if Forest fail to capitalise on Luton central defender Mads Anderson being ruled out with a hamstring injury.
Forest still outperformed Palace, having 16 shots, of which five were on target to the Eagles’ eight shots and two on target.
Half of the Red’s eight goals have been headers and their last outing showed the chances are there.
The jury is still out as to whether Chris Wood can effectively lead the line in Awoniyi’s absence and repay his £15 million transfer from Newcastle.
Another summer of spending should see Forest have enough quality to edge past Luton, with this providing the perfect opportunity for Callum Hudson-Odoi and Anthony Elanga to show their worth and live up to their pedigree as young starlets.
Is it too early to call this a ‘must win?’
However, a win would go a long way to pushing Forest further away from the drop and firmly into mid table; even at this early stage, dropping points against relegation rivals could prove costly come May.