Barnsley face a potentially season-defining clash on Tuesday night when they host Sunderland at Oakwell.
The Black Cats are currently hot on Barnsley’s heels in the League One table in the race for promotion. Defeat for the Tykes would see Sunderland move to just a point behind them with a game in hand.
It is vital that Daniel Stendel’s side don’t lose the initiative in this race by losing at home on Tuesday. Fortunately for them, though, Jack Ross’ side will arrive already weakened.
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According to the Sunderland Echo, the visitors will be without the injured Reece James, Tom Flanagan, Duncan Watmore and Chris Maguire for the mid-week clash, with club-captain George Honeyman also ruled out with suspension.
All five are first team players whose absence will surely be felt by the Black Cats.
Stendel should be prepared to set up his team in a manner that will allow them to exploit Sunderland’s injury-caused weaknesses.
Without Honeyman, Watmore or Maguire, Sunderland will certainly be less creative and dynamic in the final third. This should give the Tykes the confidence to be aggressive and take the game to the visitors. In doing so, they should also be able to test Ross’ rearguard, which will be without Flanagan and James.
Sunderland’s injury crisis gives Barnsley an opportunity that they cannot afford to fail to take advantage of. If Stendel’s side aren’t able to put the weakened Black Cats outfit to the sword then it could have dire consequences for their promotion ambitions.