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Barnsley’s transformation since last summer has been truly sensational. The Tykes were all but down with two games to play last July, but a combination of last-minute winners against Nottingham Forest and Brentford, an 11th-hour points deduction for Wigan, and a host of other results going in their favour meant that they somehow survived the drop into League One.
10 months later, they prepare for a Play-Off semi-final and an opportunity to return to the Premier League for the first time since 1998. They face a Swansea side that will hope to make amends for last season’s Play-Off heartache after they threw away a first-leg lead against Brentford in the semi-finals.
Both Swansea and Barnsley have known for several weeks that they would be competing in Play-Offs, so it is difficult to read into any of their recent fixtures. Swansea won both league meetings between the sides 2-0, but they last met in the league in mid-January and might as well have been playing in a different decade for all the difference it will make on Monday.
The sides will be nervous at Oakwell on Monday night and would probably take a draw to ensure that their Premier League dreams are still alive going into Saturday’s second leg.
Monday 20:15 – Barnsley v Swansea
Sky Sports Main Event / Sky Sports Football
While fireworks can be expected in the other semi-final between Bournemouth and Brentford, almost the exact opposite can be expected here between two of the more pragmatic sides in the division. Barnsley and Swansea have scored the fewest number of goals in the top eight and have earned their place in the Play-Offs through a series of low-scoring victories.
The Swans boast the third-best defensive record in the league and are easily one of the top teams in the division at the back. They also have the best defensive record of the four teams competing in the Play-Offs and have the wherewithal to keep Barnsley at bay.
At the other end, they have been less impressive. They have scored just 56 goals in 46 games in the league this season and have been outscored by the likes of QPR and Cardiff. Barnsley’s defensive record is nowhere near as impressive as Swansea’s, and they have conceded more goals than any other team in the top six, but the majority of those goals came away from Oakwell.
At the other end, Barnsley’s record of 58 goals is hardly any better than Swansea’s 56 and they will struggle to breakdown a well-organized Swansea outfit. This should be a cagey, low-scoring affair that sets everything up for the second leg.
All roads point to a scoreless draw on Monday, to the disappointment of neutral fans everywhere. With 20 shutouts, Swansea recorded the second-highest number of clean sheets this season, while they also drew blanks on 11 occasions throughout the campaign.
Barnsley, meanwhile, kept a relatively impressive 14 clean sheets over the regular season and less impressively drew blanks on 14 occasions.
Both sides have drawn 0-0 on three occasions this season and will understandably be nervous come kick-off on Monday. It is reasonable to assume that both will set out not to lose and it could easily result in a scoreless draw.
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