POYA Asbaghi says Barnsley would still have a chance of survival even if they lost at home to Reading tomorrow but admits a victory would make the task far easier.
The Reds are 22nd, five points behind fourth-bottom Reading.
They both have seven matches left after tomorrow’s meeting.
Asbaghi told the Chronicle: “We know the importance of this game and we really want to win, nobody hides it.
“But, if we lose and it is eight points to secure ground with seven games left, there have been bigger miracles.
“We have been eight points behind then, two games later, it was two.
“We understand if we win it will be easier to accomplish what we want.
“If we lose, we’re not going to stop training or trying.
“There are a lot of games left and we have collected three points in games when nobody expected us to.”
Asbaghi is hoping the Reds can launch a run which takes them out of the relegation zone for the first time since October 2. He said: “It is a bad feeling when you have to look at what other opponents are doing. Because of the start to the season we have had, we have put ourselves there. But, hopefully, starting with a good result on Saturday, sooner or later other teams will be looking up to us not the other way around.
“We have a pretty good chance, especially if we win on Saturday, to make something special this season. Most people who cheer for Barnsley would appreciate this situation more than in January when we had not won for a long time. I am really happy with the development of the team from January until April.”
The Reds collected just 14 points from their first 29 games but doubled that tally in the next eight, cutting the gap to Reading from nine to two points, before seeing it return to five after losing at local rivals Sheffield United before the international break. Reading – who are expected to be backed by at least 1,500 fans – have won three of their last 19 league matches, losing 11.
Asbaghi said: “They have some individual quality. You don’t spend that much money without getting good players.
“(Danny) Drinkwater, (John) Swift – they are good individual players.
“We have to be compact and keep them out of spaces where we don’t want them to be. They have the quality to punish us if we don’t make a good game.
“But, if we do the things we are supposed to do, there is a reason Reading are in the same region of the table as us because they have some weaknesses I hope we can expose.
“If you look at their offence individually you can be a little bit surprised by where they are. If you look at them as a unit and collective, maybe not as much.”
Asbaghi is focusing on preparing for this game like any other. He said: “I don’t think the players have to think about the importance of the game. Every game we have will be important.
“They need to focus on what they are supposed to do in every scenario and stay concentrated the whole game. If you put all your energy into that then there is no time left to think about anything else.”
Asbaghi was appointed towards the end of the last international break in November, after which the Reds played 22 games in 17 weeks with injuries and Covid-19 cases cutting training numbers down. He has had a rare uninterrupted week with the players on the training ground after a week off last week.
“The good part is we have a lot of time to prepare, it’s not in between lots of other games. We have had time to talk about our identity and our next opponents. I have not had much time like this to have collective training. So this break was really welcome.”
The Reds are unbeaten in five home games, winning three and conceding late equalisers in the other two.
“I hope our fans mobilise in a good way. I have met some here and there and, from them, it sounds like they are really eager to support on Saturday.
“I hope we can create a good atmosphere from the first second – no matter what happens, otherwise it will be a game on neutral ground.
“I am confident our fans know the importance of this game and they will do everything they can to help us.”
Reading are managed by former England midfielder Paul Ince who took over in February. Asbaghi, an avid watcher of English football, said: “When I was growing up maybe he was not at his peak but I remember him playing for England and he had a short spell in Italy (with Inter). He had a great career as a football player.
“What I think he has brought to the team is something I will keep to myself. But a new coach comes in with new energy and new belief for a team that was going through a tough time.”
Ince said in his pre-match press conference: “Whatever happens with Reading this year is not going to be based on Saturday. There are still plenty of games to play so, for me, it’s just about performing. They’re all big games now we have to be calm and cool. If Barnsley were to beat us we’re still two points clear. If we can get the win then great, but if we don’t, we still have to roll our sleeves up and go again on Tuesday.
“I’ll tell my players to be calm, be cool, go and express yourself and enjoy the challenge. And that’s it.
“Don’t think of it as an FA Cup final because it isn’t. Just play and relax.”