Barnsley will be hoping to end a run of three successive league defeats when they host Mick McCarthy’s Cardiff City from 7pm tomorrow.
Cardiff are 15th in the Championship, five points behind the Reds and 13 away from the top six which they were expected by many to feature in this season.
The Reds are 11th, eight points off the play-offs and 14 points clear of the bottom three. They have lost their three league games since the turn of the year without scoring but the games were against top four sides Norwich, Swansea and Watford.
Cardiff sacked manager Neil Harris on Thursday after a run of six successive losses.
They replaced him with Mick McCarthy, the Barnsley man and legendary Reds centre-back who is now a veteran manager.
McCarthy’s last game in English football was also against the Reds, when his Ipswich side won 1-0 at home in April 2018 before he announced he was leaving in the post-match press conference.
He has since been in charge of the Republic of Ireland national team and Cypriot club APOEL Nicosia.
McCarthy has faced Barnsley 13 times as a manager - winning six, drawing five and losing two. He is unbeaten against them in nine matches since 1-0 defeats in 2006 and 2007 as Wolves boss.
Head coach Valerien Ismael said: "I know he is a Barnsley guy. I am very delighted to face such a big manager, with his experience. It’s a big challenge.
"It’s never easy to prepare a game when a new manager has come. But it is clear in this situation. We know exactly the way Cardiff plays football and I don’t think the new manager will take them in another direction.
"It will be a fight, all about the set pieces and the second ball and the desire to win the game. It will be a completely different game than against Norwich. We will be ready.”
Barnsley lost 3-0 at Cardiff on November 3, which was Ismael’s first away game as Reds head coach and his worst result so far. He started Elliot Simoes and Patrick Schmidt up front but discarded them from regular first team contention – with Simoes since being loaned out to Doncaster – after a disappointing attacking display.
Ismael has said he learned a lot from that game about the physical and direct nature of the Championship.
"I learned you need to have flexibility in your way to play football and which players to choose for the Championship. It was, for me, the breakthrough in the Championship because, after 90 minutes, I learned almost everything of what you need in the Championship. Since that game, we have developed the squad and the team. We are not finished, it is always a process, but we made big steps.
"If you look at the starting 11 last time and this time, it will be a completely different team. We have a different mindset now. We are very happy with our performance, but we are unhappy with the points in the last games. It is all about getting the points now against Cardiff.”
Jordan Williams trained today after injury, while Aapo Halme could return to training next week if all goes to play.
Liam Kitching has suffered a setback in his return from a groin problem. Ismael said: "We have to completely reduce the intensity and build up slowly. We want to get him back as soon as possible because we have a lot of games but we don’t want to take any risks. We hope he will be back in two or three weeks but we don’t want to put pressure on him. It is frustrating because he just came to a new club and he wants to play.”