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25 December 2020

Doug O’Kane gave the lowdown on Barnsley

- Expert’s view on Barnsley
- Details what he expects from the Tykes
- Barnsley currently sit one place behind Town

Journalist Doug O’Kane gave his thoughts on Barnsley ahead of Huddersfield Town’s Sky Bet Championship game on Boxing Day!

How pleased will Barnsley be with their season so far?

Very pleased. To be five points off the Play-Offs at Christmas, and 12 clear of the relegation zone, is massive progress from last season when they spent 311 days in the bottom three before surviving in the final seconds.

The defeat at Swansea on Saturday was disappointing but it was probably one game too far for a young squad after a gruelling schedule against a high-flying side. They have been on a great run since Valerien Ismael took over in October and will hope to carry that on.

Valérien Ismaël has come in as Manager, what’s he changed and what influence has he had on the team?

He’s altered the formation to 3-4-3 and changed the style to be a bit more direct with early passes up to the front three.

Also, his reputation as a former title winner with Bayern Munich and his authoritative presence seem to have got the squad instantly behind him and generated a momentum which has now gone way behind a typical honeymoon period for a new manager.

In terms of style, how have Barnsley been playing this season?

They are a high pressing team, putting pressure on sides who build up from the back and counter-attacking quickly. They used to build up from the back themselves under the previous manager but now they look to get the ball forward a lot quicker.

They’ve only lost three times at home this season, how good have they been at Oakwell?

There hasn’t been too much of a difference between home and away form – probably due to the absence of fans.

The Reds lost their opening game to Luton then were beaten by two of the promotion favourites Bournemouth and Brentford.

But they have been good in most of the other matches and always fancy their chances of three points at Oakwell.

Cauley Woodrow has been in fine form, what’s changed with him?

Nothing has particularly changed as he has always been a consistent scorer for the Reds – he is close to reaching double figures for goals for a third successive season.

He spent a lot of last season and the early part of this season playing in attacking midfield role in Gerhard Struber’s 3-4-1-2. But Ismael has moved him back up front, which obviously means he gets a lot more chances to score.

How exciting is Barnsley’s mix of youth and experience in the side?

The mix has changed in the last year, with the likes of Michael Sollbauer, 30, and Matty James, 29, joining one of the youngest squads in the EFL after the Reds tweaked their policy of only signing players aged 25 or younger. They still have a young and inexperienced squad but the majority of them played throughout last season which was a major learning experience.

Where will the key battles be in this game?

The wide areas could be key. Arguably Barnsley’s best players this season have been their wing-backs Callum Brittain and Callum Styles, with the latter set to return from suspension for this game. They drive the team on and provide a real threat from the flanks. Huddersfield Town may change, like most teams do, to a back three to match Barnsley and they also have dangerous full-backs in Pipa and Harry Toffolo.

What weaknesses can Huddersfield Town exploit?

Barnsley have conceded within the first five minutes of each of their last three matches. They also have a weakness from set pieces at the moment with Brentford, Preston and Swansea all scoring from corners within the last month.

Ismael will have had a rare week on the training pitch this week in which he will have looked to work on that weakness.

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