POYA Asbaghi says he has had 14 first team players available in training this week but is hopeful that Barnsley will play at Birmingham City on Saturday.

The Reds called off two league games last week after Covid-19 cases and injuries deprived them of about 12 first team players, while several staff members were isolating. The numbers improved slightly this week, with 14 being the threshold imposed by the EFL for postponement. Head coach Asbaghi told the Chronicle on Thursday afternoon: “We have been exactly at 14 players which is at least enough to play.

“It is not an optimal situation at all but I hope we don’t lose any more players ahead of Saturday, and maybe get some back. I hope we can put a starting 11 out there and play the game.

“We haven’t played for a lot of weeks in the league and we want to play this game. Anything can happen but we are really eager to play, even if we don’t have big numbers.

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“We have had players come back from isolation but we have new cases and also our injury problems.

“But hopefully it won’t be like before when we were losing players left and right, sometimes at the last minute.”

The Reds have played just one league game in the last five weeks.

“If we postpone games we will have a lot of games in short time later, three games a week more or less all the time and we don’t really have the squad to play that many games. Maybe playing on Saturday is better than postponing and play it at a later stage.”

Cauley Woodrow is out after knee surgery but Michal Helik could return from a thigh problem. Asbaghi said: “Michal has been coming back from injury and recovering. We will have to check his status and maybe he can be in the squad. But he’s an important player who we need for the whole season.

“We have to consider that he is only just coming back from an injury and we have to see how he responds.

“We don’t want to risk him missing the whole season.”

Saturday’s match is the first of seven in three weeks and 14 in eight weeks.

They still have home matches against Stoke City and Blackpool to rearrange.

Asbaghi admits further injuries and player welfare are big issues for players returning from isolating into this busy schedule.

“You have Covid cases but then that affects the amount of players you have, so anyone who comes back from Covid has to go straight back into training and the team. That increases the chances to get injuries. We have to do our best to look after them.”

The home match with Cardiff City has been brought forward three days to February 2 after it was originally scheduled on the weekend of the FA Cup fourth round.

Upcoming games: Birmingham, A, tomorrow; Nottingham Forest, A, Tuesday; Bournemouth, H, Janurary 29; Cardiff, H, February 2; Huddersfield A (FA Cup), Feb 5; Luton A, Feb 8; QPR H, Feb 12; Coventry, A, Feb 19; Hull A, Feb 22; Middlesbrough, H, Feb 26; Derby A, March 5, Fulham, H, March 12; Bristol City, H, March 15; Sheffield United, A, March 19.