Barnsley manager Gerhard Struber has predicted that a “surprise” team will suffer relegation from the Championship this season, as his own side battle for second-tier survival.
Back to back wins for the Tykes and three wins in four for fellow basement dwellers Luton in recent weeks have seen the margin for error at the bottom of the Championship reduce dramatically, and there are now just eight points covering the division’s bottom seven, with each team having either 11 or 12 games left to play in the campaign.
Among the sides in that equation are Stoke, Huddersfield and Middlesbrough, all of whom have played in the Premier League in recent years, although it seems that Struber believes that pedigree will count for nothing in the next few weeks.
Assessing the state of play in the relegation battle ahead of his side’s trip to the KCOM Stadium to face out-of-form Hull City on Wednesday night, the Barnsley manager told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “For many weeks, I had a talk about which teams are in relegation (trouble). Right now, you see the league is so difficult. So many teams have problems to constantly bring good performance.
“I think, in the end, we will maybe have a big surprise as to which club goes down. Maybe for many clubs around the relegation zone, it is absolutely a new situation with pressure.”
Discussing how his side may view things differently to some of those around them – such as ‘Boro and the Terriers – in the relegation run-in, Struber added: “For Middlesbrough, it is a completely new situation. Also Huddersfield have problems to bring a good performance constantly.
“They are big clubs and for us, it is a normal situation. I hope we can change our situation.”
Victory over the Tigers for Barnsley could move them to within three points of safety on Wednesday night, if Stoke and Middlesbrough suffer defeats away at Blackburn and at home to Leeds respectively.
It certainly feels possible that one of those Struber refers to a “surprise” name could suffer relegation this season.
Middlesbrough in particular look bang out of form right now, while Stoke and Huddersfield have both been worryingly inconsistent across the course of the season from their perspective.
As a result, there are still plenty of teams looking nervously over their shoulder heading into the final few weeks of the season, and the recent results of the likes of Barnsley and Luton will not have helped their mood in that respect.
Indeed, with the pressure on those sides more heavily than a team such as Barnsley, that lesser expectation could give the Tykes a useful boost here, in what looks set to be a fascinating run-in over the next few weeks.