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Preview: Stoke City vs. Barnsley – prediction, team news, lineups

:Headline: Preview: Stoke City vs. Barnsley – prediction, team news, lineups:
Sports Mole previews Saturday's Championship clash between Stoke City and Barnsley, including team news and predicted lineups

Two sides embroiled in a relegation dogfight will face off in a crunch match on Saturday as Stoke City welcome Barnsley to the bet365 Stadium.

Stoke succumbed to a 3-0 defeat against Wigan Athletic last time out, whereas Barnsley enjoyed a 2-0 victory over Blackburn Rovers to keep their survival hopes alive.

Match preview

Coming up against an in-form Wigan Athletic side was never going to be an easy task for Stoke, and the Potters felt the full force of Kal Naismith as the substitute bagged a brace at the DW Stadium to leave Stoke just one point above the drop zone.

Michael O'Neill was very vocal in the criticism of his players following their dismal defeat against Wigan, and the Potters manager will no doubt be demanding an improved performance against one of their relegation rivals in midweek.

Stoke continue to search win since the Championship returned to action, with a defeat to Middlesbrough and a 1-1 draw with Reading preceding the midweek defeat to Wigan, and Huddersfield Town's 3-0 triumph against Birmingham City means that the Potters have dropped down into 21st with six games left to play.

Nevertheless, Stoke have only suffered defeat in two of their last 10 games on home soil, although the bet365 Stadium will be without its 30,000-strong crowd for the remainder of the campaign.

Meanwhile, Barnsley are putting up a strong fight to escape the bottom three as they overcame top-six hopefuls Blackburn Rovers by two goals to nil on Tuesday evening.

Second-half goals from Conor Chaplin and Jacob Brown at Oakwell mean that Gerhard Struber's men have now taken seven points from a possible nine since the English second tier resumed - although they still occupy a spot in the bottom three as they lie 23rd with 41 points.

22nd-placed Hull City, who sit one point above the Tykes at this stage, have the chance to climb out of the bottom three with victory against Middlesbrough on Thursday, but Barnsley can do the same this weekend should other results go their way.

Struber's men are yet to concede a goal following the Championship's return and will no doubt fancy their chances against an out-of-sorts Stoke side at the weekend, and the Tykes also boast an impressive recent record on their travels with three wins and three clean sheets in their last four away outings.

The two clubs were involved in a high-scoring affair in the reverse fixture, but it was Stoke that eventually came out on the right end of the scoreline as O'Neill witnessed his side enjoy a 4-2 victory at Oakwell in November.

Stoke City Championship form: DDWDLL

Barnsley Championship form: WLLWDW

Team News

Nick Powell is back in the fold for Stoke having served his one-match suspension, and the midfielder is in line for a return to the first XI.

O'Neill could opt to shuffle the pack again as Stoke look to arrest their slump, with Bruno Martins Indi, Tommy Smith and Tyrese Campbell all in contention to feature from the first whistle.

Joe Allen is the only injury concern for the Potters at the moment, with the midfielder not expected to play a part before the season is over.

Romal Palmer was forced off through injury in Barnsley's victory over Blackburn, but otherwise Struber has a clean bill of health for the weekend trip to Staffordshire.

Young goalkeeper Jack Walton has impressed between the sticks since making the starting lineup in June, and his English compatriot Chaplin could be rewarded with a start following his goal against Blackburn.

Stoke City possible starting lineup:
Butland; Smith, Shawcross, Batth, Martins Indi; Cousins, Clucas; Ince, Powell, McClean, Campbell

Barnsley possible starting lineup:
Walton; Sollbauer, Andersen, Williams; Ludewig, Mowatt, Styles, Ritzmaier; Thomas, Chaplin, Brown

We say: Stoke City 0-1 Barnsley

O'Neill's scathing assessment of his players is sure to have an effect on their performances in these final few weeks, but whether the Potters can kickstart a revival against one of their fellow strugglers remains to be seen. Barnsley have shown plenty of positive energy since they returned to action, and we expect the Tykes to carry that momentum forward against a substandard Stoke side this weekend.

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