Thursday night’s victory over Rotherham United has put safety almost within touching distance. There is still work to do, but it seems as if four points from our remaining five games should do it, which is eminently achievable. However, we are going to have to maintain a similar level of intensity and composure to Thursday’s performance to ensure that we get over the line.
Off the back of such a big effort against Rotherham in midweek, an insanely intense Barnsley side are probably the last team we would want to come up against. However, with there being relatively little pressure or expectation on this game, it’s maybe a chance to pull-off a shock result that could demonstrate what this team could be capable of next season.
There were two key surprise team selection calls for the Rotherham United game, with Ben Wilson starting in goal and Julien Dacosta at right wing-back. As well as both players did in their roles on Thursday night, it isn’t certain that they will continue for this game.
Ben Wilson is probably the safer bet to start here, out of the two. While the keeper had little work to do in our last game, he demonstrated why he was preferred to Marko Marosi by claiming one or two important crosses. Against a Barnsley side that are very strong from dead-ball situations, we are going to need our goalkeeper to perform a similar job and Wilson looks the best man to do so.
Given that there have been concerns over Julien Dacosta’s fitness levels, it seems possible that he could be handed a rest after such a big effort on Thursday night. With Fankaty Dabo seemingly not quite ready to return, it would mean another start at right wing-back for Josh Eccles against a Barnsley side that will look to test his physicality rather than isolate him against a skilful wide player.
The other potential area for change is in attack, where Matt Godden is still not quite at 100% after a spell out injured and Tyler Walker appeared to pick up a knock on Thursday night. Given Barnsley’s intense pressing game, having either or both of Maxime Biamou and Vitkor Gyokeres in attack may be a good option to as a release valve for our defence.
Last Time We Met
There appeared little between the two sides when we met back in September at Oakwell. Barnsley probably just edged the contest, creating some decent openings in the second-half, but both teams seemed to lack the quality and cutting edge to make the breakthrough in what felt a meeting between two teams set to scrap for survival.
The Manager – Valerien Ismael
Recruited by the club following the departure of the impressive Gerhard Struber, Valerien Ismael has transformed a Barnsley side that looked set to struggle this season into an almost certain play-off position. Cranking the intensity of Barnsley’s pressing game up to 11, Ismael likes to get his side to squeeze the opposition into their own half and make games incredibly frantic.
Ismael’s Barnsley have started to attract a bit of criticism for their physicality and directness, but it’s all part of a clear method. Their centre-backs play will spend most of the game on the half-way line, with the goalkeeper off his line very quickly to sweep things up. Proficient from set-pieces and smart in their use of the bench in order to maintain their intensity, Barnsley consistently choke the life out of opponents and ensure that the key moments of the game are in the right area of the pitch for them.
Who To Look Out For
This is a Barnsley side that is about its collective strength rather than individual quality, however, there is one player in particular that has stood out recently. The quick, burly and technically gifted American striker, Daryl Dike, has provided a cutting edge in attack since his January arrival that has tipped Barnsley from mid-table towards the play-offs. Dike has not only scored at an impressive rate – eight goals in 14 appearances – but is an all-round presence in attack that has helped this Barnsley side impose itself on opponents.
Dike’s signing has taken the burden off Cauley Woodrow as Barnsley’s main goalscorer, with another January signing, Carlton Morris, also chipping in with some important goals for the Tykes. Furthermore, Barnsley’s proficiency from set-pieces – with Alex Mowatt’s delivery particularly effective – has added to their goal threat, with centre-backs, Mads Andersen and Michal Helik significant presences in the opposition penalty area.
The aforementioned Alex Mowatt is the beating heart of this Barnsley side. A former star prospect at Leeds United whose career had appeared to stall, he has gotten better and better over the past three seasons and is a key presence in midfield for the Tykes. A leadership figure who uses the ball well and has a good reading of the game, he can put out fires before getting the team on the front-foot.
At the back, Mads Andersen and Michal Helik are increasingly authoritative figures, benefitting of the pace of Toby Sibbick in order to push up the pitch. Wing-backs, Callum Styles and Callum Brittain provide further energy and quality in wide areas. Meanwhile, Bradley Collins in goal has been invaluable for this Barnsley side since Ismael’s arrival due to his ability to get off his line quickly in order to sweep up dangerous situations and allow the team to deploy such an incredibly high defensive line effectively.
Where The Game Will Be Won Or Lost
Expect a very fast and frantic game where it will appear as if neither side has gotten into any kind of rhythm. We have got to be prepared to be given very little time on the ball and to deal with a Barnsley side that will play the ball forward into dangerous areas at every opportunity.
If we can maintain the concentration levels to avoid Barnsley overwhelming us in open-play, the next challenge will be to deal with their dangerous set-pieces. If we can deal with both of those things, then keeping Daryl Dike quiet will be the next key challenge, with the forward capable of either forcing his way through an opposing defence or producing a moment of brilliance out of nowhere.
Getting up the pitch is going to be an important element of our performance in this game. That’s why there’s a strong reasoning to start either or both of Maxime Biamou and Viktor Gyokeres in attack. Callum O’Hare’s work-rate and ability to go past defenders could be where we make the breakthrough. If we had more pace in our attack, we might stand a better chance of exploiting Barnsley’s high defensive line.