Written by Frankie Rudland (@RudlandFrankie)
Jonathan Woodgate was full of praise for in-form Barnsley as he spoke to the media ahead of this weekend’s vital clash at the Vitality stadium.
The Tykes have made a miraculous U-turn since Valerian Ismael was appointed in October, with the Frenchman transforming the Yorkshire side from relegation candidates to promotion chasers.
And Woodgate was quick to praise the job that the former Bayern Munich defender has done since his arrival in English football, he said: “He’s done really well since he’s been in there, it’s a fantastic achievement.
“He’s changed the style of play, they’re difficult to beat, they’re really direct and they press high with all their players so we know it is going to be really tough game.
“It is important that we match them in those physical challenges and then try and get the ball down and play our football.”
Barnsley are currently the form side in the division, with their unbeaten run spanning an impressive ten matches and almost two months.
They were denied a seventh consecutive win in midweek as Wayne Rooney’s Derby managed to hold them to a goalless draw at Oakwell, which Ismael partly attributed to fatigue in his post match analysis.
The Cherries on the other hand were treated to a rare midweek break from what has been a manic schedule this season, and Woodgate accepted that this may give his side a slight edge: “With the preparation I’d definitely say the midweek break has given us a slight advantage.
“In terms of tiredness as well the third game in a week is always difficult, but they’re riding high at the minute and the players will be full of confidence.”
Although Bournemouth may not have been in league action this week, Woodgate insisted that he has relished the chance to put his players through their paces in training, he continued: “To spend that time on the training ground has been really good and you can really put in what you want to the players, so it has been a tough week for them but they’ve enjoyed it as well.
“You definitely prefer it, you can prepare differently, experiment with different things and you have more time to analyse the opposition.”
One key player that Bournemouth will have to do without for Barnsley’s visit is Lewis Cook – the influential midfielder has been ruled out for the season after rupturing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee against Preston.
This is the second time that Cook will face a lengthy spell on the side-lines, having previously injured the same knee in 2018 which put him out of action for nine months.
Speaking on the injury, Woodgate said: “I’m devastated, the full team are really, really gutted for Lewis.
“It is a tough time when you get injured, so it is going to be a difficult period for Lewis, but he will get back and that is the biggest thing.
“I’ve already spoken to him a couple of times, he has been in this situation before so he knows what is takes, he knows what he has to do now.
“I know what he’s like as a character, I adore his personality, he’s the type of lad that you’d go to war with and he’ll know what it takes.
“He’s a fighter, you want him in your team and you want him with you so I know that he will 100% be back fitter and stronger, and to have that character will be really important with the injury that he has got.”
In other injury news, Sam Surridge and Philip Billing returned to training this and will be available for selection, while Diego Rico just misses out as he continues his recovery.
Woodgate also confirmed that Welsh talisman David Brooks has started running as he steps up his rehabilitation, but is not expected to feature until after the international break.
The Cherries have the chance to leapfrog their opponents today, with a win placing them back in 6th spot and inside the much coveted playoff places.
Bournemouth face Barnsley at the Vitality stadium on Saturday 13th March at 3pm.