Barnsley return to competitive action from 7pm tonight when they visit fellow League One club Blackpool in the EFL Trophy.

The Reds won their first two group games at home to Grimsby Town and Manchester City under 21s but were thrashed 5-1 last month at League Two Bradford City who finished above them at the top of the group.

Blackpool topped their group with three wins - over League Two clubs Barrow and Morecambe as well as Liverpool under 21s.

Like the Reds, they have tended to change the majority of their side from league fixtures with some untested youngsters involved as well as first team reserves.

Barnsley have not won a knock-out game in the trophy since winning the final at Wembley in 2016. They lost in the first knock-out game in 2018 to Manchester City under 21s then last season at Port Vale.

If they win at Blackpool, they will be three wins from the Wembley final.

Head coach Neill Collins told the Chronicle: “We’re at the point now that Wembley’s within sight. There is never a bad time to be at Wembley, unless you have blown automatic promotion. We’re looking forward to the game and trying to get to the next round.”

The EFL Trophy is the only cup competition the Reds are in having been expelled from the FA Cup for fielding an ineligible player.

Collins said: “What happened in the FA Cup can change our approach slightly. It means there are more players ready to play who we might have rested had they played on Saturday (in the second round of the FA Cup). Competition is key and players will have a chance to impress. They want to play all the time.”

Barnsley played their least experienced team so far at Bradford when they were missing some players due to international call-ups and injuries, with youngsters Charlie Hickingbottom, Aaron Atkinson and Vimal Yoganathan starting.

They are likely to play a stronger side this time, although many changes are still expected from the league side against Wycombe - with a trip to Reading the league coming up on Saturday. Centre-back Jack Shepherd was sent off at Bradford so is suspended for this game.

“It will certainly be a stronger team than at Bradford. It’s not like our players have been through a really heavy schedule. They are pretty fresh.”

Centre-back Kacper Lopata could return to the starting line-up two months after injuring his shoulder.

“Kacper is in contention. He’s been fantastic this season prior to his injury. It says a lot about how well Mael (de Gevigney) has done that we have not missed him as much as we thought we maybe would. To have been back is a huge boost. He brings skills we don’t currently have in the team.”

The two sides have already met this season with Blackpool winning 1-0 at Oakwell in the league on September 30 - 66 days before this fixture.

Collins said: “They are a really strong side. They will challenge for promotion. I thought we were very good against them in the league and should have got at least a point. It might be a bit more open game this time but no less challenging.”

Jordan Rhodes, the former Oakwell academy player, netted the only goal from the penalty spot after a foul by Corey O’Keeffe. Rhodes has 11 goals in 14 league games and is the third top-scorer in the division but has not been featuring in the EFL Trophy.

Blackpool have two other former Reds players who have each appeared once in the trophy this season. Defender Callum Connolly made his professional debut for Barnsley during a three-game loan spell for Everton in 2016 while Australian midfielder Kenny Dougall spent two seasons at Oakwell from 2018 to 2020.

This will be the 107th meeting of the two clubs, with Barnsley winning 46 and losing 35. The Reds’ last trip was in September 2021 when Markus Schopp’s side lost 1-0 in the Championship.