Doug O’Kane looks at a vital three weeks as Reds face teams placed currently tenth or below and try to claw their way out of the drop zone

READING, AWAY, TOMORROW

The tenth-placed Royals are currently the highest-placed of all Barnsley’s six opponents before the November international break. But they could drop into the relegation battle if they are deducted points for breaching EFL rules.

Veljko Paunovic’s side recovered from a poor start with four wins from their last five games despite having up to ten players injured.

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They are under a transfer embargo but have picked up free agents such as Danny Drinkwater and Baba Rahman who Chelsea had spent £60million on combined.

The Reds are winless in eight against Reading and goalless in their last four trips to the Madejski Stadium.

Barnsley will need to produce a much better display than they did in their first game after the last international break, the harrowing 3-0 loss in Bournemouth when they did not have an attack of note.

Reading – the sort of footballing side Barnsley usually do better against – may be seeking revenge after the Reds denied them a place in the play-offs last season.

MIDDLESBROUGH, AWAY, WEDNESDAY

Neil Warnock is among the favourites to be the next Championship manager to leave his job, along with his former Oakwell team-mate Mick McCarthy whose Cardiff side have started poorly, and Barnsley’s Markus Schopp.

This appears to be a vital week for Warnock, as Boro host two sides in the relegation zone starting with Peter-borough United tomorrow.

He had been expected by many to add to his record-breaking litany of promotions, or at least compete to do so.

But the North East club missed out on the play-offs last season and are currently closer to the bottom three than top six in 15th.

If both sides have poor weekends, this midweek meeting will be an extremely high-pressure match for both managers.

SHEFFIELD UNITED, HOME, OCTOBER 24

This Sunday lunchtime derby will be an opportunity for Barnsley to score their first non-penalty goal at Oakwell since August and their first of any kind in front of a Pontefract Road End containing fans for almost two years.

There is likely to be a vocal 4,000-strong away following, with restrictions to the North Stand capacity apparently no more, next to a West Stand which will be empty again, other than the press, after it was closed to fans last week.

The Blades will arrive having won just one of six away games this season and struggling, up until now, to live up to their early tag of promotion favourites having dropped out of the Premier League. They are managed by Slavisa Jokanovic – who has won all four games against Barnsley – while former Reds heroes Neil Redfearn and Paul Heckingbottom manage their women and under 23s respectively. A derby victory is exactly the kind of result that could kickstart Schopp’s reign at Barnsley.

BRISTOL CITY, AWAY, OCTOBER 30

The Robins fans are still waiting for a home win since returning in full capacity to Ashton Gate, where their side has drawn four games and lost won.

Nigel Pearson’s side are in mid-table as they have the best away record in the division but, if they do not beat either leaders Bournemouth or resurgent Nottingham Forest this week, then there may be discontent when the Reds arrive there.

Barnsley will hope to get their second win at Ashton Gate of 2021, after a 1-0 February success which ended a ten-match winless run against the Robins and was their first win there in 17 attempts since 1993.

Matty James, who joined Barnsley on loan a year ago tomorrow, has been an ever-present for City this season. He is the kind of experienced presence the Reds have been lacking so far this season.

DERBY COUNTY, HOME, NOVEMBER 3

The Rams’ administrators have lodged an appeal this week against the 12-point deduction they received last month for entering administration.

The result of that could be important for Barnsley, if they stay in the relegation fight, as Wayne Rooney’s side are the only club with fewer points than the Reds so far this season due to the deduction.

The Rams – who would be 14th without being docked points – are the division’s joint lowest scorers with the Reds, but have the joint best defence with leaders Bournemouth.

Rooney, who has only been able to sign unattached players due to a transfer embargo, is likely to face a very different home side at Oakwell to last season when he labelled Valerien Ismael’s Reds ‘possibly the most direct team I’ve ever seen.’

HULL CITY, HOME, NOVEMBER 6

Although the landscape may change substantially in the next five games, this is currently set to be a second home game in four days for the Reds against a side who join them in the bottom four.

Fourth-bottom Hull are only out of the relegation zone due to Derby’s points deduction.

The newly-promoted Tigers have won two of their 11 games so far, scoring eight goals but they did end a ten-match winless run with a 2-0 win over Middlesbrough in their most recent outing.

They are managed by former Barnsley midfielder Grant McCann and have ex-Reds Mallik Wilks, George Moncur and Callum Elder.

There will then be another international break before a Reds run-up to Christmas which reads: Fulham A, Swansea H, Peterborough A, Huddersfield H, Preston A, West Brom, H.