VALERIEN Ismael is expecting a new striker and centre-back to arrive at Oakwell next week.

The Reds are hoping to add strength in depth to their attack and defence  – and want to get their business done early in the window.

Following Saturday’s trip to Norwich City, eighth-placed Barnsley – who have won five of their last six Championship games – host Tranmere Rovers in the FA Cup on Sunday, January 10. 

Head coach Ismael told the Chronicle: “Our purpose is to have new signings before the Tranmere game. They are on the way. For the moment, there are good signs that it could happen. We are looking still at a striker and a centre-back.”

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Ismael has confirmed that Liam Kitching, the 21-year-old Forest Green Rovers centre-back, is one of their targets and a deal is thought to be close. 

Barnsley are understood to be close to signing striker Carlton Morris, who is contracted to Saturday’s hosts Norwich City but had been on loan to League One MK Dons.

His contract is due to expire at the end of the season so the Reds will have to pay a minimal fee. They are considering bringing him to Oakwell on a permanent deal. 

The 25-year-old has scored four goals in 24 games for MK, for whom he also played last season alongside Callum Brittain. He has made just one appearance for Norwich but 175 in loans at Oxford United, York City, Hamilton Academical, Rotherham United, Shrewsbury Town and now MK – scoring 29 goals. 

Ismael told the Chronicle: “Carlton Morris is a player on a list who we are looking at. He is a very good player with a good profile for me, for the system and for the Championship. But he is one name among many. We have to see and, when something is ready to sign and to say, we will do it. But for the moment I am only talking about the prospect and saying we are close to making a deal. The feeling is, for the moment, good.”

Matty James, the central midfielder who has impressed on loan from Leicester, is available for the game at Norwich City on Saturday but then his loan expires. 

The Reds are hoping to keep the 29-year-old all season and he has said he would like to stay. 

Ismael said: “It is the job of Dane Murphy (chief executive) to communicate with the agent and Leicester. We need quality and he is a quality player.”

James’ midfield partner Alex Mowatt, who signed for Barnsley in January 2017, has played every game this season and scored four goals.

The 25-year-old captain’s contract is due to expire at the end of the season, but he’s told the Chronicle he hopes a new deal can be agreed soon.

The club have insisted they will keep their squad intact, with interest also expected in star players Cauley Woodrow, who has nine goals this season, and midfielder Callum Styles who has excelled at left wing-back.

Ismael said: “The purpose with the starting eleven is to keep them until the end because we have a good feeling now. We can see how we intergrate the new players. That is what I’m looking forward to. 

“It will be a tough month but with the wins and the mentality we showed and the performances and togetherness, I think we are ready.”

The new points-based system for signing players from EU countries after Great Britain officially leaves the union from tomorrow means the Reds are mainly focusing on signing players from English clubs. 

Chief executive Dane Murphy has insisted the Reds will not sell any of their key players this window. 

The Reds are likely to offload several fringe players, either on loan or permanently. 

Those could include midfielders Jordan Green and Isaac Christie-Davies, who have not played this season. The future of striker Patrick Schmidt could also lie away from Oakwell once a new player is recruited in his position. 

Attacking midfielder Elliot Simoes has not been in a matchday squad since being taken off at half-time in the 3-0 loss at Cardiff City last month, after which Ismael said he needed to be more ‘professional and serious.’ The Angola international has been playing for the under 23s. 

Ismael said some players would be leaving the club in the coming weeks.