1st May 2021 Deepdale Stadium, Preston, Lancashire, England English Football League Championship Football, Preston North End versus Barnsley Barnsley manager Valerien Ismael reacts furiously after a decision is given against his team PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxUK ActionPlus12285248 DavidxBlunsden

12 months ago, not many associated with Barnsley Football Club – or even bookmakers – would have thought that The Tykes would be just three games away from potentially playing in the English Premier League.

Indeed, last season they were fortunate to stay in the division after they obtained a point on the final day that saw Charlton Atheltic go down instead of them.

After a slightly disappointing start to the campaign, Gerhard Struber would leave to become the manager of MLS outfit, New York Red Bulls, which then saw Valerien Ismael come to Oakwell and take the reins.

Not many, though, would have expected the Frenchman to have been able to deliver the Yorkshire outfit the opportunity to play in the English Premier League within a few months.

However, Swansea City stand in their way as they aim to reach the play-off final, where they could meet either Brentford or AFC Bournemouth – two teams who are heavily backed to be the favourites to obtain the final place in next season’s top-flight division alongside Norwich City and Watford.

And, it would seem that bookmakers are given Barnsley a chance of reaching that final and booking their place at Wembley as many have them down as favourites to overcome the Swans over the two-legged affair.

Whilst many may be looking to take advantage of the Unibet welcome bonus that they can obtain for themselves ahead of the EFL Championship play-offs, it should be noted that The Tykes do not have a great record against the Welsh side this season.

Indeed, Ismael’s side lost both of their encounters in the league, with both having gone in the way of a 2-0 defeat. Nonetheless, it could be argued that the Oakwell outfit are a lot better since those meetings, as they came in December and January.

Since the 2-0 defeat in January – which came at Oakwell – Barnsley have only lost a total of three league games, with one having been at home in a Yorkshire derby against recently-relegated, Sheffield Wednesday.

Since the defeat, The Tykes have managed to win 13 of the subsequent 22 games to have been played – with five draws having been had.

Indeed, that form makes them a reasonable option when trying to predict who goes up in the play-offs this season, as they have become incredibly difficult to beat.

However, with many bookmakers still keeping both Brentford and AFC Bournemouth above them in the running for Premier League football next season, the play-off final might be the end of the road for Ismael and his Barnsley side this season.