The 2019/20 Sky Bet Championship season is finally upon us as the Reds welcome the Cottagers to Oakwell for a 3pm kick-off - here's your preview!
Four months ago, Barnsley sealed their immediate return to the second tier, automatically promoted as Sky Bet League One runners up.
In Head Coach, Daniel Stendel's debut season in English football, the German guided the Reds back to the Sky Bet Championship in impressive fashion by implementing a high-pressing, attacking style of football.
The departure of a number of players has been offset by the arrival of no-less than 10 new signings as Stendel continues to mould a side in his image.
A pre-season that was spent - in the main - overseas, with trips to France and Germany that took in three friendly victories has allowed those incoming players crucial time to bond with their new teammates.
With new Chief Executive Officer, Dane Murphy now in situ, there's still one more week of wheeling and dealing possible before the closure of the summer transfer window. But the Reds will be hoping that the bulk of a successful squad is already in position, ahead of this opening fixture of their 76th campaign at level two of the league pyramid.
There are a few players who Stendel will have to do without against Saturday's opponents, Fulham.
Long-term absentee Kenny Dougall is edging towards a return to training, but he's still some weeks away from that. Meanwhile, full-back Jordan Williams has only just returned to training, wide-man and last season's Young Player of the Year, Jacob Brown is around a month away from a return following a hamstring injury, and fellow winger Jordan Green will be unlikely to play until after the Sheffield Wednesday clash.
First Team Coach at Oakwell, Dale Tonge addressed these issues amongst others when he spoke with the gathered press at the club during midweek, and both his and midfielder Cameron McGeehan's pre-match press conference videos are available to watch in full for our iFollow Barnsley subscribers, by clicking the linked content below.
Our visitors this weekend are new to the Championship also, having returned via Premier League relegation.
Now coached by ex-player Scott Parker, Fulham are unsurprisingly considered by many as the favourites to make an immediate return to the top flight this season.
The Craven Cottage-based outfit spent just a season in the Premier League, a campaign of misery that saw two managers leave the club and little to shout about for the Cottagers' supporters.
But the West Londoners have retained the majority of their squad, hoping they'll get the desired reaction following last season's demise.
Some eye-catching arrivals in the shape of Anthony Knockaert and Ivan Cavaleiro offer fans hope that their stay in the second tier will be a brief one.
Parker isn't expecting an easy ride when they pitch up on Grove Street this Saturday, as he told Fulham's official website this past week.
"They (Barnsley) got promoted last year, they’re familiar with winning football matches. It’s going to be tough, I’m under no illusions and the players will be under no illusions. On Saturday it’s going to be a real, real battle. We understand that and hopefully we’ll come out on top."
There's a familiar face in the Cottagers' backline. A former promotion winner with the Reds, central defender Alfie Mawson will make his first Oakwell return this weekend. And there's a bit of a reunion of sorts for Barnsley striker Cauley Woodrow who spent seven years at the Cottage before joining the Reds last summer.
But the friendships will be put to one side when 3pm arrives Saturday, and the 2019/20 campaign kicks off in earnest.
This will be the third time the two clubs have met on the opening day of a new season. With Fulham getting a 1-0 win in 1970, the Reds a 3-0 victory in 1983, it's all set for a decider this time around.
Saturday will be the 81st meeting between the clubs and Barnsley edge the fixture historically. We have 31 wins to the Cottagers' 26.
The last time the sides met was in January of 2018, in a season that saw both clubs exit the division in separate directions. Despite Liam Lindsay hooking home from close-range to give Barnsley a first half lead, a Dimitri Cavaré dismissal turned the tide and Ryan Sessegnon soon levelled up for Fulham. But the Reds held out until injury time before Kevin McDonald fired in from inside the box and Sessegnon added his second and the visitors' third to take all three points.
We have in fact to go back all the way to the year 2000 for our last taste of success against the West Londoners. That was a 1-0 home win in March of that year, thanks to a Neil Shipperley strike in a season in which the Reds did the double over the Cottagers and went on to reach the playoff final under the guidance of Dave Bassett.
For information on ticket availabilty for Saturday's clash, please click here.
Due to broadcast restrictions there will be no live stream for this fixture for our overseas subscribers but we will have full, uninterrupted commentary from Oakwell via the match centre from just before 3pm with our very own Matt Bailey on the mic.
Come on You Reds!