ValerienIsmael says there is more pressure on last-placed Sheffield Wednesday than his Barnsley side ahead of tomorrow’s South Yorkshire derby at Hillsborough.
After losing 4-0 at home to Bournemouth on Friday then winning 2-1 at home to Wycombe Wanderers on Wednesday, the Reds are 16th in the table with 22 points from 17 matches.
They are ten points clear of the bottom three and eight off the top six ahead of tomorrow’s derby at Hillsborough from 3pm and Tuesday’s home match with Preston North End.
Wednesday – who had an initial 12-point deduction halved to six – are bottom of the table, four points from safety, and 13 behind the Reds with nine points.
They are yet to win any of their six matches under manager Tony Pulis, having sacked former Barnsley player Garry Monk during the last international break.
They have won one of their last 12 and are the second lowest scorers in the division. Barnsley have not beaten their local rivals in 12 attempts since 2009.
Ismael said: “Sheffield Wednesday have a lot of issues but I saw their game at Huddersfield (a 2-0 loss on Tuesday) and I saw a lot of quality.
“We have to be focused and ready for another fight. It is the same as Derby, this team has to play higher in the table.
“There will be big pressure but more on Sheffield than on us.
“We are going there with confidence and to take the fight to them.
“They have more quality than the bottom of the table but, if you are not prepared to be at the bottom, you need a lot of energy to come back up the table.
“We want to build a new momentum and we need another big performance and to be efficient. First I want to see a good game from my team and then we want to win the game. We have a plan for how we can hurt them.
“I played in a lot of derbies in my career. It is not the same without fans but on the pitch it will be a big fight. We want to win this game for our fans.”
Barnsley top-scorer Cauley Woodrow netted in the last meeting of the clubs, a 1-1 draw at Oakwell in February.
He said: “It’s a big game for the fans, they won’t be there but we’re really looking forward to it and hoping for three points. Wednesday are at the bottom but they have a lot of quality.
“Last season, playing home and away, we saw how passionate both sets of fans are about the game. We know how important it is. We will do everything we can to get the three points for the fans at home. It’s a great stadium to play at and we’ll be looking to get one over them.
“It’s a bigger pitch so that will probably suit us because we like to get the ball wide.”
Ismael has won six of his ten games since being appointed in October and taking charge of a side who had not won any of their first seven. Only leaders Norwich City have more Championship points since Ismael’s arrival.
The Reds are halfway through a run of 12 games in 43 days. They are hopeful that Jordan Williams will soon return from a hamstring injury but Callum Styles and Mads Andersen are both one yellow card away from a one-game ban – if it is in the next two matches as 19 games is the cut-off point.
“I am very very happy. In some games we were unlucky to lose but all the games we won, we deserved to win. The points give us confidence but, when you look at the schedule, you have to stay focused.
“At the moment we have all the players but the situation is very sensitive with the yellow card situation and Covid is still here. We need all the squad.”
Ismael has said his goal is to secure safety in the Championship, with the Reds well on course to do so.
“It is a good start but we have to stay concentrated. In the Championship it is very tough. This schedule does not give us the confidence we need. We don’t have time to work on things in training and speak with the guys about the mistakes they are making. We have to try to get the points we need as soon as possible and create as big a gap as we can between us and the bottom three.
“We are doing our job very well and giving everything we have on the pitch.
“We have a clear structure and the players have confidence in these principles and a good togetherness.”
After the games against Wednesday and Preston, Barnsley visit Swansea City on December 19, their ninth match in 28 days. They then have a week off before completing 2020 with Yorkshire derbies at home to Huddersfield Town on Boxing Day and at Rotherham United three days later. The Huddersfield game could be in front of 1,000 fans if South Yorkshire is upgraded to tier two when the government’s coronavirus measures are reassessed in the coming days.