Barnsley have ‘nothing to lose’ in play-offs, insists Valerien Ismael

VALERIEN ISMAEL is challenging his Barnsley side to evoke the spirit of Griffin Park ahead of the Reds’ latest date with destiny at Swansea City.

Trailing 1-0 after a tight Championship play-off semi-final first leg at Oakwell, Barnsley must win to have a chance of reaching the Wembley finale in eight days’ time – either by an aggregate victory or on penalties.

It represents a massive task for the Reds, who famously triumphed on the final day of last season in a memorable 2-1 stoppage-time win at Brentford’s former home to register a staggering ‘Great Escape’ from relegation to League One.

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This time, Barnsley are seeking a victory for entirely different reasons – but Ismael believes that the pressure is somewhat different now.

Tykes head coach Valerien Ismael. Picture Tony Johnson

The Reds head coach said: “We did not have an advantage from the first game, but it is not a disadvantage now to be one down.

“It should suit us better for our mentality. Last season, Barnsley needed to win at Brentford to stay in the league and Barnsley did it. It is exactly the same and it is a positive feeling and with a win, we could be at Wembley.

“So it is a great feeling to have this challenge for the guys and this is our motivation.

“The big difference is that last season, there was massive, massive pressure on Barnsley, a difficult situation.

Barnsley's Callum Styles celebrates scoring at Brentford last season. Picture: PA

“Now it is another feeling, it is a great feeling because it is something special. We have nothing to lose.”

Swansea – who have beaten Barnsley three times this season without conceding a goal – start as clear favourites at the Liberty Stadium tomorrow evening.

But Ismael is pinning his hopes on his side conjuring another dramatic story in the history of the play-offs, having previously spoken about how Derby County upset the odds to reach the Championship play-off finals after overturning a first-leg deficit to eliminate Leeds United in 2018-19.

Alongside Bradford City, Barnsley are also the only side to win the play-offs after losing a first leg at home, something which famously happened in 2005-06 after the Reds progressed to the League One showpiece at the expense of Huddersfield Town after a 3-1 away win in the semi-final second leg following a 1-0 loss in the opening match at Oakwell.

Valerien Ismael.

Barnsley then held their nerve to beat Swansea in the final on penalties.

Tomorrow, they also face a Swans side who were eliminated from the semi-finals at the end of last season, despite winning the first leg against Brentford.

Ismael, who reports no fresh injury issues ahead of the trip to the Principality, added: “It will be a massive, massive effort for us to put on the pitch.

“We have some reminders like the (Barnsley) game against Brentford and like after Monday’s game when I spoke about Derby and last season, Swansea took the lead 1-0 against Brentford and lost the second leg.

“This is the play-offs, anything can happen and we are still in the battle. We have to stay focused on our strengths.

“Our main focus will be for us to control our emotion. If we can do this, then we hope to have an open game.”

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