BARNSLEY will come up against ‘basically a Championship team’ when they visit Derby County on Saturday, says head coach Michael Duff.

The Rams finished above the Reds last season, despite a 21-point deduction, but both sides dropped out of the Championship.

Wayne Rooney left his role as Derby boss during the summer, eventually returning to DC United, and was replaced by interim boss Liam Rosenior.

Derby then came out of administration after a takeover by local businessman Steve Clowes and have brought in a series of high-profile players with Championship and Premier League experience – seven of whom are in their 30s. They include former Barnsley captain Conor Hourihane who played 135 games for the Reds between 2014 and 2017, as well as former Oakwell loanees Korey Smith and Joe Wildsmith.

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Derby are among the favourites to win League One this season. So far, they have won 1-0 at home to Oxford United on the opening day, thanks to a Hourihane goal, then lost 1-0 at Charlton Athletic on Saturday. They won 2-1 at League Two Mansfield Town on Tuesday in the EFL Cup.

Duff told the Chronicle: “Derby are basically a Championship team.

“It will be tough to play away against them after playing away at a Championship club Middlesbrough on Wednesday.

“I watched Derby at Mansfield, they changed half their team and still had a decent team with people like Conor Hourihane on the bench.

“It will be tough but we will stick together and give ourselves a chance.

“There are some big big big clubs in our league and Derby are one.

“We need to show the same spirit, togetherness and hopefully a little bit more quality but we won’t be coming up against the same quality as Middlesbrough. We have a month of Saturday, Tuesday games so it’s time to work hard and get your head down. What we’ve done so far means nothing. Just keep working and grafting. Hard work pays you back.”

Midfielder Luke Thomas joined Derby aged 16 from Cheltenham Town but played twice in three and a half seasons before moving to Barnsley in 2019.

This will be the 75th meeting of the clubs, with Barnsley winning 22 and losing 35.

The Reds won at Pride Park two seasons ago under Valerien Ismael then, last campaign, beat them 2-1 at Oakwell under caretaker Jo Laumann.

But they lost 2-0 in Derby in the reverse fixture in March, which proved to be a key result in their relegation.