Barnsley head into Saturday's game with a few injury headaches that Paul Heckingbottom will be hoping clear up soon. Summer signings Liam Lindsay, Zeki Fryers and Cameron McGeehan will all be missing through injury. Angus MacDonald will also be out with suspension after being sent off last Saturday at Sheffield United.
Barnsley’s newest addition Dimitri Cavare, signed from Rennes, will also not make the game as Paul Heckingbottom confirmed that the young frenchman was not quite there yet.
The story so far
Barnsley have only won one of their opening four fixtures and sit 20th in the table at this early stage in the season. They began the season with a poor display in a 3-1 defeat at Bristol city, and followed that with a 2-1 home defeat to high flyers Ipswich Town. They won their only game of the season against Nottingham Forest at home 2-1, but lost last weekend at Sheffield United.
Last time out
Barnsley’s last Championship game saw them travel to Sheffield United for a lunch time kick off. The game itself was a fiery one, with both sides receiving red cards for an off the ball incident involving Leon Clarke and Angus MacDonald.
The goal that day was scored by Billy Sharp in the 17th minute, but Barnsley manager Paul Heckingbottom felt that his side had been lucky to just lose by the one goal - describing the performance as ‘Chalk and Cheese’ compared to their previous game - a victory against Nottingham Forest.
Barnsley danger man
Tom Bradshaw is the obvious candidate for danger man for Barnsley. The 25 year old, who signed from Walsall in 2016, has three goals in five appearances this season. Bradshaw is hoping for a better second season in the Championship - last season he bagged eight goals in forty-five games.
Bradshaw plays a selfless game and is known for his work-rate. In his days at Walsall, the striker was a twenty-goals-a-season man, but he has yet to reach such prolificacy since his step up to the Championship. But Heckingbottom loves what Bradshaw brings to the team, and our defenders will know they have been in a game after playing against the Welsh international.
Referee: Chris Kavanagh
Chris Kavanagh will be the man with the whistle on Saturday, and he has a bad reputation with both clubs after previous controversial games. The Lancashire official has only taken charge of one Sunderland game in his career - the 1-0 EFL cup defeat at Southampton last season.
Kavanagh turned down a stonewall penalty for Sunderland after Victor Anichebe was brought down in the box, and sent David Moyes to the stands after he swore at the fourth official in the aftermath.
Coincidentally, Kavanagh also sent off Barnsley manager Paul Heckingbottom in their meeting with Wolves last season. Kavanagh had previously sent Alex Mowatt off on his debut and Heckingbottom was sent off for getting into a scuffle with the Wolves coaching staff.
Kavanagh issued one hundred and thirty-three yellow cards, and sent off three players last season.
It’s another ex-Premier League club for our fans to come and see so lets all challenge ourselves as a club; players, staff, fans and see if we can turn them over. While we’ll be challenging the players to be better than Sunderland on the pitch, we need to challenge our fans to be better than Sunderland’s. Their fans will come and sing. Sunderland will definitely bring some support down, we’re one of the closest teams for them so they’ll have great following and we’ll need our fans to as good as they have been. We’ve been good here [Oakwell]. All of last season we were good against the teams coming here. We worked hard and made it a good atmosphere. The fans made it a good atmosphere and I’m sure they will again this season.
There’s no hiding from the fact that they’ve got a lot of good players and a good squad. Their first loss came against Leeds and they’ve been really steady. They’ve got good players. Simon seems to have come in and simplified it for them - hard work and organisation.
If Sunderland are to win this game at the weekend they need to make sure they are defensively prepared for an aerial bombardment. Lamine Kone and Tyias Browning need to be on their game to make sure they win the ball the majority of the time. Lee Cattermole and Didier N’Dong will be crucial in picking up loose balls, as Barnsley will have the extra midfield man.
Simon Grayson may be better served employing an extra midfielder in favour of a striker, matching Barnsley’s three in central midfield and generally Sunderland will be best served trying to get the ball from defensive positions, out to the wing as quickly as possible, with Barnsley having probably the poorest set of full backs in the division - players like Aiden McGeady should have a field day.
Ultimately if we are to win this game on Saturday, the key is a strong defence. Barnsley will present us with chances and, if we can be water tight at the back, we should be able to create enough chances to take the three points.
Predicted Barnsley line up
With Dafabet, Sunderland are the favourites heading into the game. Barnsley are priced at 5/2 and Sunderland are at 11/10. The good money is on Sunderland to win and both teams to score, as Barnsley have scored in all but one of their fixtures so far and neither side has a clean sheet to their name - BTTS and a Sunderland win is priced at 11/4.