Barnsley will look to extend their unbeaten run in the Championship to 13 matches going into the international break when they welcome struggling Sheffield Wednesday.
Valerien Ismael’s side saw off another team deep in relegation trouble in midweek, overcoming Wycombe Wanderers to make it nine wins in 10 matches and move up to fifth in the table.
Here’s what the Frenchman said ahead of Saturday’s South Yorkshire derby at Oakwell.
On Alex Mowatt’s appeal
Barnsley are facing an anxious wait to find out if they will have captain Alex Mowatt available for Saturday’s match, with the midfielder facing a three-match following his dismissal at Wycombe.
Ismael called the decision “unjust” and he will discover later on Friday whether the club’s appeal has been successful.
“We did everything, we filled everything for the appeal and we will have a response today before six,” said Ismael.
“We did our job with the club, with (CEO) Dane Murphy and now we have to wait. For us now it’s no excuse or complaint. We stay focused on the next game, all the players are ready, we have all the players available for the last game before the break.
“It doesn’t matter whether he’s on the pitch tomorrow. Yes for sure if Alex didn’t play tomorrow it would be a big loss for us but the motivation is too big (in the squad).”
On other options
Herbie Kane is the obvious candidate to step up and play alongside Romal Palmer in central midfield if Mowatt cannot feature, but defender Aapo Halme has featured off the bench in that position recently and wing-back Callum Styles could also move across.
“We have plenty of options,” said Ismael. “All players are ready. We saw in the last few games Aapo (and) Stylesy can play in that position.
“At the moment the guys give us a really good feeling and that’s why it’s exactly the same. Our desire and our motivation is bigger than one player. He is an important player for sure but the focus and the mindset at the moment is really high and the guys are really focused.”
On Sheffield Wednesday
Barnlsey face a team who have picked up just one point from their last eight matches, with the arrival of Darren Moore as manager failing so far to bring a turnaround in results.
Despite being second-bottom in the table, Ismael still believes that Wednesday can cause plenty of problems for his side at Oakwell.
“I saw them against Norwich (a 2-1 defeat last Sunday), I was in the stadium and it was important for me to have a clear picture,” he said. “Since the new manager is there I think they changed their shape, their way to play football and you recognise already his touch.
“We know what is going on (there) but Sheffield is a quality team, (with) very good players in the team to compete at that level. Especially against Norwich, especially the first half was very good, and that’s why it will be another fight, another big performance we need to stay aware, to be focused, to start the game like Wycombe.”
On the key threats to his side, Ismael added: “(Barry) Bannan is the key player for them. He controls everything in the middle. (Adam) Reach makes a very good performance, they try to keep their intensity high and I think (Kadeem) Harris is a big threat as well, so there is big quality in the squad.
“They can play at a high level and in one game they can show their quality. We concentrate, focus, be aware of the strength of the opponent but (will) force our game and force our determination to get the points.”
On unbeaten run
Barnsley’s staggering form has taken the Championship by storm, with their unbeaten run currently standing at a dozen games, and 28 points collected from the last possible 30.
“This is what you need if you want to reach something special,” Ismael said. “If you want to make something different, you need a run like that.
“It’s good to see that with the right mentality, the principles, the desire, everybody on the same page, it’s work and it’s not only about the big money, the big players, the big squad, to find a way to compete and we found our way now. Now it’s all about getting the job done.”
On international call-ups
Two Barnsley players have received senior international call-ups this week, with striker Daryl Dike set to join the US for the second time having scored five goals since joining on loan from Orlando City.
For defender Michal Helik it is a very first call-up to the Poland squad, who face England at Wembley in one of their three matches in the coming fortnight.
While Ismael would like his squad to get a rest from the hectic schedule, he is delighted to see the duo get recognition and takes it as a great complement for Barnsley.
“I think it shows that we are on the right way, that the guys have raised their own performance,” he said. “When you can raise your own performance, you raise the team’s performance.
“I think that we are on the right way and other players can make the same step. Mads Andersen has played a fantastic season so far. This is our job of the staff, to improve all the time the players.
“For the guys it is fantastic to be with the national team, but for me as Barnsley coach I wanted to see my players to rest because they have played a lot of games so far. But it’s something different and you have to take the experience, we will find a couple of days before they come back to rest or have some days off before the next game after that.”