7 days in football: This week’s most interesting action

THE CHAMPIONS League is back with some intriguing second legs, while Manchester United will be hoping to bounce back after their total humiliation at Anfield on Sunday. And watch out for the last eight of the Scottish Cup, which sees Celtic face Hearts and Rangers host Raith.

Monday March 6

A West London derby with Brentford hosting Fulham. Both these sides are above the biggest club in the neighbourhood, Chelsea. How times change.

Tuesday March 7

Talking of Chelsea, they welcome Borussia Dortmund to Stamford Bridge for the second leg of the UEFA Champions League last 16 tie. They trail 1-0 and rumours persist that if the Blues go out, Graham Potter may be looking for a new job. It could be a tense night. Benfica are well placed in the other tie, they won 2-0 in Bruges in the first leg. Meanwhile, in League One, there are a lot of contenders for promotion. And two of them, Plymouth and Derby meet at Home Park.

Wednesday March 8

More Champions League action, with Bayern Munich aiming to finish off Paris Saint-German, whom they beat 1-0 in Paris in the first meeting of the two clubs. Bayern have a Bundesliga title race this season, with Dortmund chasing them all the way, while PSG are a little goal-happy at the moment.  Tottenham, who went out of the FA Cup last week, are a goal behind to AC Milan, so the second leg should be a cracker. 

Thursday March 9

Some interesting ties in the Europa and Conference leagues. Sporting Lisbon are at home to Premier leaders Arsenal, while Manchester United host Real Betis. In theory, both should go through. Arsenal are looking more and more like Premier champions, their comeback against Bournemouth was sensational, while any talk of United being late-season challengers was foolhardy. The way they were thrashed 7-0 by Liverpool was, to quote Erik ten Hag, “unprofessional”. There’s a clash of the unions in Berlin when the local side take on Union Saint-Gilloise. The Europa League has some big clubs in the last 16, including nine who have won a European prize or two. In the Conference League, West Ham travel to AEK Larnaca, a tie they should negotiate fairly comfortably. The Hammers’ coach, David Moyes is also under fire at the moment.

Friday March 10

The first of the Scottish Cup quarter-finals: Inverness Caldedonian Thistle of the Champion ship play Kilmarnock of the Premiership.

Saturday March 11

Some big games in the less publicised leagues across Europe. In the Czech Republic, Slavia Prague meet Viktoria Plzen – top versus second. In Bulgaria, the two CSKAs play in the capital – CSKA Sofia versus CSKA 1948. Northern Ireland’s league leaders, Larne, host Linfield, who need the win to make up ground on top spot. In Germany, the Revierderby, Schalke versus Borussia Dortmund, takes place. Scottish Cup sees Hearts welcome Celtic in the second quarter-final. Two more League One promotion clashes: Barnsley v Plymouth and Bolton v Ipswich. In the Premier League, Manchester City travel to Crystal Palace. The quarter-finals of the FA Trophy and FA Vase both take place.

Sunday March 12

Another London derby, Fulham v Arsenal, while in the Women’s Super League, Chelsea and Manchester United meet at Kingsmeadow.

Barnsley financial loss won’t dampen their promotion charge

BARNSLEY pulled off an excellent victory in their last League One fixture, a rousing 4-1 victory against Derby County at Oakwell, strengthening their bid for a play-off berth. They’re currently on a seven-game unbeaten run and have a six-point margin (and game in hand) over seventh-placed Wycombe.

The club has just announced its financial figures for the 2021-22 season, a campaign in which they were relegated from the Championship with just 30 points, just a year after reaching the play-offs. They admitted relegation was the consequence of a summer of bad decision-making in 2021. 

The report reveals a pre-tax loss of £ 7 million, an increase on 2020-21’s deficit of £ 4.3 million. Barnsley’s revenues went up by 20% to £ 15 million thanks to increased matchday income (+300%) as crowds returned to Oakwell and growth in commercial earnings (+39%).

Attendances in 2021-22 averaged 13,263 but in 2022-23, they have declined by around 20% to 10,302 per home game. The Derby game was watched by more than 17,000 people, their biggest crowd in three years.

Barnsley’s wage bill went down to £ 13.1 million from £ 14.4 million in 2021-22, which represented 87% of income compared to the very unhealthy 115% in 2020-21. The club’s owners launched a £ 1 million equity rights issue and since the year-end (May 31) has raised an additional £ 5.6 million. 

Barnsley are owned by BFC Investment Company, a Hong-Kong based entity. Their shareholders are Neerav Parekh (35%), Chien Lee (31.25%) and the Cryne Family (20%) as well as Pacific Media Group, who have a small stake in the club. Chinese-American businessman Chien Lee has stakes in multiple clubs, including Thun (Switzerland), KV Oostende (Belgium), Kaiserslautern (Germany), Nancy (France), Esbjerg (Denmark) and Den Bosche (Netherlands). Lee is a big advocate of the Moneyball system increasingly favoured by small-to-medium sized clubs as a way to implement good value team-building processes.

The win against Derby County meant Barnsley have won 12 of their last 16 league games, which is promotion form by any standards. They haven’t given up on winning an automatic place even though they are nine points away from second-placed Plymouth. They do have two games in hand, though. Barnsley will play a number of the promotion-chasers over the next month, which should give a good indication of where they stand in the scheme of things. These include home games against leaders Sheffield Wednesday (March 21), Plymouth (March 11) and Ipswich Town (March 25). But Barnsley are confident at the moment and they have some eye-catching players such as Herbie Kane, James Norwood and Adam Phillips.

The Tykes are aiming for a quick return to the Championship, but going beyond that may be a tall order. League One has a number of big name clubs that are vying for football at a higher level, such as Derby County, Sheffield Wednesday, Bolton Wanderers and Ipswich Town. Barnsley have tasted life in the Premier, they had a single season in the top flight in 1997-98, but is the Yorkshire town big enough to host Premier football again? A lot has changed since they were last there.