Valerien Ismael says Barnsley will go ‘all in’ when they visit mid-table Preston North End from 3pm tomorrow and he is expected to play his strongest side.
The Reds are guaranteed a place in the Championship play-offs and could finish anywhere from their current position of sixth up to third, with tomorrow’s game followed by a home match against promoted Norwich City in their final league fixture on May 8. Ismael could rest players to avoid injuries ahead of the play-offs but said he would not.
The head coach told the Chronicle: “I have told the guys we have two weeks before the first leg and we have two games which are preparation. We will go all in in those games. We don’t want to try anything new. We have said all season that we will start strong and finish strong. We want to finish as high as possible in the table so we have to win.
“We need to stay in rhythm, we need to have a competitive mindset and we cannot be on holiday. We can’t take the pace out of the guys. We have enough time between the games to rest but we need to keep momentum going and finish the season very strong.”
The trip to Preston will be Barnsley’s final away league game of the season and they have already set a club record for 11 second tier wins on their travels.
They can equal the club record of 12 away wins at any level set in the third tier in 1938/39 and 1954/55. Only Norwich, Swansea and Brentford have more away points than the Reds’ 36 this season.
Preston are 14th in the table, 22 points behind the Reds and 16 clear of the bottom three. They competed for a place in the play-offs last season before just missing out then, at the start of 2021, they were just four points off this season’s top six. But, of their 23 games in 2021, they have lost 12 while drawing five and winning six including a 1-0 success in their most recent game at Coventry City on Saturday.
Ismael said: “They have shown good results recently. They are always a good side who were much higher in the table for a long time and normally they can compete for the six. It will be a fight.”
Preston are currently managed by Frankie McAvoy who is in temporary charge until the end of the season following the March sacking of the former Barnsley midfielder Alex Neil who had been the Lilywhites boss for four years.
They also have former Reds players in their squad. Midfielder Brad Potts – who spent 18 months at Oakwell until moving to Preston for about £1.5million in January 2019 – is North End’s second top-scorer this season with five goals.
Potts’ former Reds team-mate Liam Lindsay joined Preston on loan in January from Stoke City, who signed him from Barnsley at the start of last season but had not played him for a year.
The Scottish centre-back has played 13 games and scored once.
Preston have the fourth worst home record in the division with 23 points from their 22 matches at Deepdale, where they were beaten six times in a row earlier in the campaign. They had won just one of their previous ten home games since the turn of the year before a 3-0 success over relegation-battling Derby County in the last Deepdale fixture.
This will be the 60th meeting of the clubs, with Barnsley winning 21 and losing 24. The Reds had not beaten Preston in five meetings until a 2-1 success at Oakwell in December in which they came from behind thanks to Alex Mowatt’s equaliser then a fine late winner by substitute Victor Adebojeyo.
Their last trip to Deepdale was a miserable one as they were thrashed 5-1 in October last season, with head coach Daniel Stendel sacked two days later. They were also humbled 3-0 at home to Preston in January last season.