Barnsley are hoping to finish 2020 with a Yorkshire derby victory and return to the Championship’s top half.
The Reds – whose three-game winning run ended with a 2-0 loss at Swansea City on Saturday – are 13th in the Championship with 28 points from 20 games. They are five points off the top six and 12 clear of the bottom three, while they have the fourth most points of any club since Valerien Ismael was appointed.
Barnsley are due to round off a year in which they stayed up in the final minutes of last season, before making a far better start to this campaign, at home to near neighbours Huddersfield Town from 3pm on Saturday.
Their scheduled match at Rotherham United on Tuesday could be called off after a Covid-19 outbreak in the Millers’ camp.
Saturday’s visitors the Terriers are 12th in the table, having moved ahead of the Reds on goal difference after a 2-0 win at home to Watford on Saturday.
Having beaten Wycombe Wanderers and Preston North End, the Reds will be looking for a third successive home victory for the second time this season after winning Ismael’s first three at Oakwell.
Ismael said: “We know it is a derby but for us it is the next game and we just need three points.
“They are an opponent who had a difficult season last season and is more stable this season – this is similar to us.
“Normally they are a possession-based team with good transition forward, their manager has done a good job.
“We have had days to recover and be fresh because we missed our intensity in Swansea.
“The Swansea pitch was the worst I have ever seen and ours is very good.
“We have used every training session to work with the guys, work on our principles and it has been good preparation.
“I have seen new motivation and intensity in training this week.”
Jordan Williams has not returned to training this week following a hamstring injury so is not in contention to face his hometown club Huddersfield, from whom he signed in 2018.
Ismael: “He is a very important piece of the puzzle because he can play right-back, centre-back or left-back.
“It is very frustrating for us and the player but we have to be patient and look further into this injury.”
The Reds have had a full week in training for the first time in a month, after playing nine matches in 28 days.
Ismael has been concerned by conceding in the first five minutes of each of the last three games and by the set piece goals netted by Brentford, Preston and Swansea.
“A big task is to start without conceding an early goal.
“We want to start strong and keep our intensity high.
“The set piece goals are really really frustrating.
“It is not because the opponent is very strong.
“We are making big mistakes.
“We have worked on it this week.”
This will be the first time Ismael has experienced football at Christmas as, although he played for Crystal Palace in 1998, he signed in January.
“This is a new situation for me and for my family.
“Normally at Christmas we would be on a skiing holiday but now it is completely new. I try to stay focused and do my job.
“My family are coming here on Friday.
“We will train on Christmas Day in the morning. I want the guys to see their families but we have to prepare for a very important game.
“I think we find the right balance.”
Huddersfield have not won in five away games, losing three and drawing two, while they have not scored in their last four. They have conceded the most away goals in the division this season with 19 in ten games.
They are managed by Carlos Corberan who was Leeds United’s under 23s coach for the previous three seasons, working with Aapo Halme and Clarke Oduor who have since moved to Barnsley.
Last season, the Reds lost 2-1 in Huddersfield under caretaker Adam Murray in October then won at Oakwell by the same scoreline in January with goals by Conor Chaplin and Alex Mowatt.
That was their first win over the Terriers in five attempts.
Barnsley have not lost on Boxing Day since 2014 when they went down 1-0 at Preston North End. Since then they have won two and drawn two, including last year’s 1-1 with West Bromwich Albion.