Middlesbrough v Barnsley: The Breakdown build-up
Middlesbrough are looking for back-to-back wins for the first time this season as Barnsley make the midweek trip to the Riverside Stadium.
The 2021/22 campaign has already hosted its fair share of false dawns for Middlesbrough, as big wins over Nottingham Forest and Sheffield United were followed by sobering defeats.
So off the back of a mood-lifting win over Peterborough United on Saturday, will history repeat itself again on Wednesday night? Or could Boro’s season finally of kick-started?
They’ll be facing an opponent who appear to be still licking their wounds from play-off heartbreak last term, as dreams of having a seat in English Football’s top division seem long in the distance.
This one is set to be a trademark Championship tussle, and here’s everything that you need to know ahead of it.
Nickname: The Tykes
Current league position: 22nd
Last season finish: 5th - beaten in play-off semi-final vs Swansea City
Manager: Markus Schopp
Current Top Scorer: Cauley Woodrow (3)
Fun fact: The term ‘Tyke’ is used (usually derogatory) to describe a Yorkshireman by people from other parts of England. The term has connotations of a hard-working man, but the word actually originates from Old Norse, where it was used to describe a female dog.
It’s been a summer of change down in South Yorkshire, as the aftermath of a fairytale season without its namesakes ending for Barnsley Football Club caught the attention of many.
Former Tykes boss Valérien Ismaël was poached by newly-relegated West Bromwich Albion in June and was replaced by current manager Markus Schopp, who arrived from managing in the Austrian Bundesliga with TSV Hartberg. The Baggies hadn’t finished raiding Barnsley’s coffers there, as they snapped up Tykes talisman Alex Mowatt on a free transfer.
The vast majority of Barnsley's summer additions haven’t began their Tykes careers as they would’ve wished either. With cult hero Daryl Dike returning to Orlando City after bagging nine goals in 19 appearances after joining in the February of last season, a clear source of goals was now unidentifiable.
So Barnsley signed three strikers in the shape of: Devante Cole (Motherwell), Obbi Oulare (Standard Liège) and Aaron Leya Iseka (Toulouse). Cole has only made three Championship appearances so far with zero goals. Oulare had to wait until mid-September to have his work permit approved, but has not yet featured in a matchday squad, and Iseka has made seven league appearances with zero goals.
It’s been tough sledding so far for Barnsley, perhaps the impact of being so close but yet so far in last seasons monumental effort is taking its toll on the squad? But Barnsley are a tough, resilient club, and they’ll have every confidence that their luck will change sooner rather than later.
The Form Book
Middlesbrough (Last six: WLWLLW)
Middlesbrough 2-0 Peterborough United
Hull City 2-0 Middlesbrough
Middlesbrough 2-0 Sheffield United
Reading 1-0 Middlesbrough
Middlesbrough 1-2 Blackpool
Nottingham Forest 0-2 Middlesbrough
Barnsley (Last six: LLLLDD)
Reading 1-0 Barnsley
Barnsley 0-1 Millwall
Barnsley 1-3 Nottingham Forest
Blackpool 1-0 Barnsley
Barnsley 0-0 Blackburn Rovers
Stoke City 1-1 Barnsley
Matches played - 23
Wins - Middlesbrough 11-8 Barnsley
Draws - 4
Goals - Middlesbrough 41-27 Barnsley
Points - Middlesbrough 37-28 Barnsley
Barnsley 2-0 Middlesbrough - April 4, 2021
Middlesbrough 2-1 Barnsley - October 3, 2020
Middlesbrough 0-2 Barnsley - September 15, 2020
Barnsley 1-0 Middlesbrough - February 22, 2020
Middlesbrough 1-0 Barnsley - November 27, 2019
Middlesbrough 3-1 Barnsley - March 10, 2018
12th, won 4, drawn 3, lost 5
Goals scored 13, goals conceded 13
Clean sheets 4
22nd, won 1, drawn 5, lost 6
Goals scored 7, goals conceded 15
Clean sheets 2
Middlesbrough are in the midst of an injury crisis, but they will be boosted at the back with the return of Lee Peltier from his one match suspension.
It will however still be a makeshift defence for Middlesbrough, as Grant Hall and Dael Fry remain some way off from making their returns. Marc Bola is also not expected to be available for this one, as we await further updates on his fitness.
Neil Warnock is not expecting any of his injured players to return in time for Wednesday however, as he told reporters: “I wouldn’t of thought we’ll have any of the injured lads back (for Wednesday). Peltier will be back from suspension, but I pulled Paddy and Jonny yesterday and said, ‘You’re my Beckenbauers tomorrow lads’. I presume they know who Beckenbauer is at their age!”
As for the visitors, they too are dealing with an injury list that has only grown longer after the international break.
Midfield maestro Callum Styles - who made 50 total appearances for the Tykes last season - as well as starting Centre-back Liam Kitching were both unavailable through injury for their weekends loss down in Berkshire. Speaking on these injuries, Markus Schopp said: “With Liam, I am not positive that he will be back in the next couple of days, with Stylesy, it looks better. I hope he can play the next game but I don’t know yet.”
Central midfielder Romal Palmer had to be withdrawn from the Reading game through injury with 15 minutes to play, and his availability to start on Wednesday evening is questionable. It also remains to be seen whether new signings Obbi Oulare and Josh Benson will be fit to play a part.
Reflecting on his sides win over Peterborough United, Middlesbrough gaffer Neil Warnock said: “I couldn’t have faulted them, every one of them. They’ve been the same in training.
“They all know they’re playing out of position, a lot of them, but we’ve nothing else. I just asked them to try to enjoy the challenge and the battle, and if they made mistakes, not to dwell on them.
“In the first half, we just had an extra touch and tried an extra pass, where we should have just relaxed a bit, but I thought we created some great chances in the second half. There were some great crosses across the box, and I thought there were some really good performances.”
Cutting a frustrated figure after his sides fourth straight defeat, Under fire Barnsley boss Markus Schopp said: “It’s a film I have already seen so many times. Scoring for us is a really tough one.
“It is one thing to get into the finishing area but we all know how it works. We are going to get one goal and we don’t know how we got it, then it will be easier. The way to get there is to create as much as possible. We have to create much more than we did today.
“There were a lot of things that were good but it wasn’t good enough. It is a really really tough situation but we are not that far from getting out. We just have to work more.”
Middlesbrough: GK: Joe Lumley DEF: Lee Peltier, Paddy McNair, Sol Bamba
MID: Marcus Tavernier, Matt Crooks, Jonny Howson (C), Martín Payero, Duncan Watmore ATT: Andraž Šporar, Uche Ikpeazu
Barnsley: GK: Bradley Collins DEF: Toby Sibbick, Michal Helik, Jasper Moon MID: Callum Brittain, Claudio Gomes, Will Hondermarck, Ben Williams ATT: Aaron Leya Iseka, Devante Cole, Cauley Woodrow (C)
As Boro boss Neil Warnock described with his uncanny Forrest Gump impression prior to the win on Saturday, this Middlesbrough team really is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.
And we can all testify that the age-old cliché of there being no easy games in the Championship is absolutely true. So attempting to predict the outcome of a Middlesbrough match - when it should really be an Olympic sport - is always a challenge, but I’ll have a go.
Barnsley’s defeat to Reading now means the Tykes sit with just one win in 12 league games this season, and indeed winless in their last 10.
Goals are the Tykes’ main problem, as they sit joint bottom of the Championship alongside Derby County in goals scored (7). Barnsley haven’t scored a goal from open play in seven games, and in the seven games after Saturday 28th August, Cauley Woodrow is the only Barnsley player to have scored a goal.
Therefore, you’d be more than entitled for believing that we can lend a helping hand in that department, as I’ll be honest, it does feel like it’s nailed on for them to score.
However, with the way he’s played so far this season, you could put every man and his dog from Barnsley in a Tykes shirt on Wednesday night, and Sol Bamba would still find a way to defend his goal. So I’m confident that this Boro defence will secure back-to-back clean sheets, and indeed back-to-back wins, as I believe that Middlesbrough’s attacking threats will prove too much for a depleted Barnsley side to handle.
Prediction: Middlesbrough 2-0 Barnsley
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