POYA Asbaghi knows Barnsley will be made underdogs by most people in their home game with in-form Middlesbrough on Saturday but believes that, after two recent wins, they can beat anyone in the Championship.
The Reds are bottom, nine points off safety, despite winning two of their last three matches.
Boro are seventh in the table, a point outside the top six and six off the top two.
Head coach Asbaghi said: “We have a lot of home games left and this is one of them, when I look at the schedule, that I think will be a tough, good home game.
“A couple of weeks ago it would be one thing for us to play Middlesbrough but I am happy we play them now with the confidence of winning a couple of games.
“It would be a really important and good victory. When people are looking at our schedule they are trying to figure out the games we can win and I don’t think anyone is thinking Middlesbrough is one of them. I don’t think anyone outside Barnsley expects us to even grab a point.
“We’re eager to show that, on a good day, we can disturb even the best sides.”
Asbaghi believes the support of the fans will be vital. He said: “If we want to take advantage of being at home, we have to have our 12th player and that is the fans.
“They gave us good support against QPR and we won that game, now we have two away games with good support, but it feels good to come back home. We have a couple more home games coming up and hopefully we can use them in a good way with the help of the fans.”
Boro parted company with Neil Warnock – the veteran manager and former Barnsley player – in early November, when they were 15th in the Championship. Chris Wilder took over the following day and has led them into promotion contention.
Only his former club Sheffield United, under Paul Heckingbottom, have collected more Championship points since Wilder was appointed by Boro.
They had lost just one of the last 15 games in all competitions, winning ten including an FA Cup victory at Manchester United, before Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at Bristol City. They then came from behind to win 2-1 at home to West Bromwich Albion on Tuesday. That put them in the play-off places but Sheffield United overtook them the next evening.
Wilder’s only previous trip to Oakwell saw a 3-2 win for Jose Morais’ Barnsley in April 2018 over Sheffield United whom he would take to the Premier League a year later. Asbaghi said: “Middlesbrough are in good form, you can see the manager has made it his team. They are really aggressive in their press and marking.
“They are one of the most aggressive teams I have analysed so far and they have individual quality and a lot of speed and players who are comfortable running into the box. It’s no surprise with their quality that they are competing for the Premier League. Hopefully we can identify areas where we can hurt them.”
Barnsley lost 2-0 at the Riverside Stadium in October in one of Markus Schopp’s final games. Andraz Sporar and Matt Crooks scored as the Reds delivered a very disappointing performance.
Boro have not won any of their last five league games at Oakwell since a 3-1 success in August 2011, losing four.
They were beaten 1-0 two years ago this week thanks to Conor Chaplin’s goal then 2-0 last April with strikes by Alex Mowatt and Daryl Dike.
The game is due to be Jordan Williams’ 100th for the Reds.
After tomorrow’s match, Barnsley have no midweek game but travel to fellow relegation-battlers Derby County the following Saturday, March 5, in the first game of five in 14 days. They are then due to play three home games in a week as they welcome Stoke City, Fulham and Bristol City, before visiting Sheffield United on March 19 ahead of the final international break of the season and eight more games in April and May.