Slaven Bilic's Baggies are currently first in the league, three points clear of second-placed Leeds United and 11 ahead of the sides outside the automatic promotion places. They are unbeaten in 13 games, with nine wins and four draws, since a defeat at Leeds on October 1 – their only league loss of the season – while they have won seven of their last nine.
West Brom have the best away record in the division, having won eight of 12 on their travels while they are the top-scorers in the Championship by nine goals and no team in the EFL has netted more. Only West Brom have more goals over the last ten games in the Championship than Barnsley who have netted 20 in that time. Barnsley drew 2-2 at The Hawthorns under caretaker Adam Murray in October, having been 2-0 up at half-time.
West Brom will be looking for their first win at Oakwell in 72 years. The Baggies' last victory in Barnsley was a 1-0 success in 1947 and, since then, they have lost nine and drawn eight of their 17 games at the South Yorkshire club. The last time the Reds won three successive Championship matches since August 2016 was when they triumphed 4-0 over Rotherham United and Wolves either side of a 2-1 victory at Preston North End.
Matt Rose, assistant coach to Gerhard Struber, said: “They are a good team and exciting to watch but they are not unbeatable. We need to make Oakwell a fortress which gives us an extra ten per cent. We’ve talked about the last game and how Adam’s tactics exposed some of West Brom’s weaknesses and also how it went wrong for Barnsley and to throw it away. But we do have a whole new fresh approach.
“I never played against Slaven Bilic but remember him as player. He has great managerial experience now and he’s in a high-profile job for a reason. His team will be well-prepared and we know that but I don’t think we should fear anyone at home.
“We have put back-to-back wins together but we need to make it three on Boxing Day. We want to win, if we don’t we will take a draw, but we want to win. Oakwell has to be a fortress.”
Striker Conor Chaplin added: “It’s a traditional day for football. It will be a good atmosphere and West Brom will bring a lot of fans. We’re looking forward to it. We’ve been good at home recently and, even though we are playing the top of the league team, we are looking for three points.
“We had a great performance at their place. In terms of what we’re going to expect they are one of if not the best teams in the league. We’ve we showed can compete with them and there’s no doubt we can do that again.”
Barnsley have won three of their last five matches, including the last two against QPR and Millwall. Rose said: “Our form has been brilliant. Results make a huge difference in confidence. It wasn’t a great game at Millwall, it was about being men and it was like the boys grew up. I am hoping that will be the catalyst for more wins. You saw evidence of boys becoming men.
“Things are looking more positive. Teams like Luton are having a bad spell and going the opposite way to us. All we can do is keep winning. It’s not less daunting, we’re not out of the relegation zone. It looks better but we need to win games to get clear of the bottom three.”
The win at Millwall has moved the Reds up two places from bottom to 22nd, a point off safety. Rose said: “We have to be careful because it’s dangerous if the players look at the table too much. It can breed complacency. If they think ‘we are third from bottom, one point away’ and drop their performance by one per cent because they think they have cracked it, we will be in trouble again. We have to get the balance. Our results should breed confidence but it’s the management’s job to make it not be complacency.”
Head coach Gerhard Struber would normally be enjoying a winter break at this time of year but the Reds play five games in 16 games. Rose said: “We have briefed him already and he knows what it will be like. He’s been shocked because already he thinks we play so many games here and there is not much time to prepare. Over Christmas, we’re just trying to keep the players fit and prepare for the next game. He’s well-prepared, he’s an intelligent man. He plans things to a tee. The shock for him will be playing game, game, game during this time.”
Barnsley have had illness in the squad in recent weeks, with Mamadou Thiam pulling out of Saturday’s squad late on. Rose said: “We have a couple of illnesses which you expect this time of year. It’s a hectic period so all bodies will be required. It’s a horrible time of year with viruses and bugs and you never know one day to the next who will be coming down with something. But we’re hoping everyone will be well for Boxing Day.”