Valerien Ismael wants his Barnsley team to be ‘unpleasant’ for tomorrow’s hosts Derby County who he admits he is surprised to see in the Championship’s relegation zone.

The Reds are five places and four points clear of the Rams who are 23rd with six points from ten games this season.

They are just one point clear of bottom club Sheffield Wednesday whose 12-point deduction was halved this week.

Phillip Cocu – the former Dutch international in his second season as Derby manager – is under pressure after a six-match winless run. 

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They drew 1-1 at Bournemouth on Saturday then lost 1-0 at home to Queens Park Rangers on Wednesday. The Rams are yet to win at home in five league games with their only goal and point at Pride Park coming in a 1-1 draw with Cardiff City last week.

Barnsley are yet to win away this season and have collected only two points from five matches on the road.

Ismael said: “I am surprised (at Derby’s league position) because normally, with this squad and these players, they have the possibility to play in the first five of this league. But it is a long season. 

“They are struggling but they are a big team with big quality.

“We have to be ready to be unpleasant for Derby. This is our target for this game. We will get our opportunity to score. The first thing is the intensity has to be back and we have to be play with more confidence than against Cardiff (a 3-0 loss on Tuesday). It is a very important game for us and we need to play with more courage.”

Derby have former England captain Wayne Rooney. Ismael said: “I have a big respect for Wayne Rooney for his career. He does not play on his level from before but he is still fast, very clever and he plays very good throughballs and dangerous set pieces. He is a key player who we have to beware of but we don’t play Wayne Rooney, we play Derby County. We have to be aware of all the squad.”

Barnsley midfielder Luke Thomas joined from Derby last year.

This will be the 71st meeting between the two clubs, with Derby winning 34 and losing 20. The Rams have won four and drawn one of their last five league meetings. Cauley Woodrow netted an injury-time equaliser in Daniel Stendel’s final home match last season then County beat the Reds 2-1 at Pride Park in the first game of 2020 which was Rooney’s debut. 

Barnsley have lost their last five games at Pride Park, including a 4-1 beating that sent them into League One in 2018.

They have won just one of 16 games in Derby since 1983 – a 3-2 success in 2009 secured by Anderson de Silva – and only five games there ever.

Ismael’s only win as a Crystal Palace player in the Premiership at Selhurst Park was a 3-1 success over Derby in 1998. His assistant coach Adam Murray was a youth team player with the Rams at that point and made his debut in the top flight the following season.