BOTH Barnsley and Derby County are expected to play close to full-strength sides when they meet in the third round of the FA Cup at Pride Park today from 12.30pm.
The Rams are unbeaten in 15 games in all competitions since October 21, other than a penalty shoot-out loss to Premier League Liverpool in the EFL Cup after a 0-0 draw.
They are unbeaten in 11 league games with five wins and six draws.
They hosted two strugglers over the New Year’s weekend, winning 1-0 against Cambridge United on Friday then 4-0 against Accrington Stanley on Monday.
That took them above Sunday’s sixth-placed visitors Barnsley into fourth.
No side has conceded fewer goals in League One this season than Derby with 17 let in in 24 games.
They have kept four consecutive clean sheets and seven in their last nine.
The Reds lost 2-1 at Derby in the league in August, when the Rams were managed by interim boss Liam Rosenior.
He was replaced the next month by Paul Warne – who moved from Championship Rotherham United – with Rosenior staying as coach until November when he joined second tier Hull City as manager.
Warne had lost all three meetings with the Reds as Millers boss.
Barnsley head coach Michael Duff said: “It will be a tough test.
“We were unlucky at their place. Warne has got them going.
“They are well-supported, have a good team, with big players, and are on a long unbeaten run.”
Both sides are expected to field strong teams, with Barnsley having only changed their goalkeepers for the previous two rounds. Duff said: “I don’t imagine, from the games on Monday, there will be more than four or five changes between the two teams.
“A couple each, maybe.
“We will put what we think is our best team out. It is a cup game but it’s a game against a team a point ahead of us in the league.
“There always has to be as little bit of management of players but we’ll always pick a team capable of winning.
“Jack (Walton, back-up goalkeeper) has played all the cup games but, whether we make that decision again, we haven’t got that far.”
The Reds won 2-1 at another League One high-flyer Bolton in the first round then 3-0 at home to League Two Crewe Alexandra in the second round.
Derby beat non-league Torquay 5-0 in a replay after an away draw then won 2-1 at League Two Newport County.
Barnsley have been hoping for a money-spinning clash with a Premier League giant.
Duff said: “If I am being brutally honest, everyone at our level wants a massive Premier League club away, a good performance, earn a few quid and get out.
“This is an opportunity to get through to the next round and get it then.”
Former Barnsley captain Conor Hourihane signed for County in the summer and has four goals and four assists so far in the league.
Derby also have two former Reds loanees in Korey Smith, a midfielder who has been playing at right-back, and goalkeeper Joe Wildsmith.
This will be the 76th meeting of the two clubs, with Barnsley winning 22 and losing 36. The Reds have won just two of their last 20 games in Derby since 1986, losing 14.
They have lost seven of the last eight visits with the exception being a 2-0 win in November 2020 behind-closed-doors.
The only FA Cup meeting was in Derby in 1897 when Barnsley lost 8-1.
Should the game be drawn, the replay at Oakwell will take place on the week commencing January 16.
The fourth round is scheduled for January 27-29, when the Reds are due to face Sheffield Wednesday in the league.
If he plays, this will be Herbie Kane’s 50th match for Barnsley.