Taiwo Awoniyi’s Nottingham Forest continue their preparations for life in the Premier League on Saturday, as they visit League One Barnsley at Oakwell.
While Forest are set for their first season amid the elite for 23 years, their hosts finished rock-bottom of the Championship last term, and Michael Duff has been appointed to lead them back out of the third tier.
Stepping up their preparedness for Premier League football in the coming months, Nottingham Forest played the second friendly of a busy summer programme on Tuesday, making the short trip to face Burton Albion.
Steve Cook’s second-half header earned the Reds a 1-0 win at the Pirelli Stadium, following a 3-1 loss to former Championship counterparts Coventry City in their first run-out, last Friday.
After fulfilling that fixture as part of a week-long training camp in Spain, Steve Cooper’s side have been back on home soil, as the playoff-winning manager seeks to bed in several new signings.
Forest have four more friendlies scheduled after they visit Barnsley – where they won 3-1 in the Championship last year – including next Tuesday’s encounter with Hertha Berlin, and a subsequent jaunt to Germany for a game against Hertha’s city rivals Union Berlin.
Having finished last season in scintillating form, the East Midlands side will be required to step up in class as they tackle the top flight this term, so keeping momentum going will surely be a priority for head coach Cooper.
Barnsley effectively lost 6-1 to Forest over two league matches last season, and have since headed in the opposite direction to Saturday’s Premier League-bound rivals – down to League One.
Now, the South Yorkshire side are attempting to rebuild under the fresh management of Michael Duff, whose new club host their Open Day this weekend, as the ex-Cheltenham boss oversees his first match in charge at Oakwell.
A goalless draw with Crewe Alexandra on Saturday was hosted on Barnsley’s academy pitch, and they have also posted pre-season wins over Walsall, Worksop Town and Guiseley since training resumed last month.
However, the Tykes’ spirit-sapping 2021-22 campaign saw them win just six times from 46 attempts in the Championship, with by far the division’s worst offensive record largely to blame.
With the aim of galvanising his troops and forming a squad fit for the rigours of League One, now Duff will hope to boost morale by posting a friendly win over upwardly mobile opponents.
Once again, Nottingham Forest are set to field a number of their summer transfer window acquisitions, with Giulian Biancone – who opened the scoring against Coventry last week – expected to join Taiwo Awoniyi, Moussa Niakhate and goalkeeper Dean Henderson in the side.
Two more additions may be given a run-out, too, as full-backs Omar Richards and Neco Williams could both feature at some stage.
Meanwhile, Lyle Taylor picked up a knock in the second half against Burton, and was subsequently substituted, so may not be risked up front. Brennan Johnson, who recently signed a new four-year deal, remains unavailable as he recovers from his World Cup qualifying exploits with Wales.
Barnsley also have a raft of new buys to choose from, including their latest recruit, Nicky Cadden. The 25-year-old Scot was named in the PFA League Two Team of the Year last season and is set to feature on the left flank.
Already short of goals over recent times, the Tykes have sold forward pair Carlton Morris and Cauley Woodrow to Luton Town, but American striker Sebastian Soto is on trial at the club and may be offered another chance to impress.
Midfielder Luca Connell, central defenders Robbie Cundy and Conor McCarthy, plus New Zealand goalkeeper Jamie Searle are all in line to appear before the Oakwell faithful for the first time too.
Barnsley possible starting lineup:
Searle; McCarthy, Kitching, Andersen; Brittain, Thomas, Kane, Connell, Cadden; Cole, Leya Iseka
Nottingham Forest possible starting lineup:
Henderson; Worrall, Cook, Niakhate; Biancone, Cafu, Colback, Richards; Konate; Awoniyi, Mighten