Reading travel to Oakwell on Friday evening in a game that has been labelled by manager Veljko Paunovic as the 'biggest game of the season so far'.

The Tykes currently find themselves in fifth spot, five points clear of AFC Bournemouth in seventh.

We spoke to Doug O'Kane from the Barnsley Chronicle who gave an insight into what the Royals can expect from Valerien Ismael's side.

How surprised have you been with Barnsley's performances so far this season?

After the ‘great escape’ last season when the Reds survived in the final seconds having been in the bottom three for 311 days, there was a belief that they could progress into mid-table instead of having another survival scrap.

READ MORE: 'Biggest game of the season' says Paunovic ahead of Barnsley showdown

But to be fifth with eight games to play is beyond what anyone realistically predicted. 

What has been the key reason behind the impressive league positioning?

The impact of head coach Valerien Ismael has clearly been massive, as he has collected 60 points from 31 games with only the top two picking up more in that time.

His presence and authority – as a former Bayern Munich centre-back but also an impressive character around the club – have galvanised the squad, who have adapted very easily to his 3-4-3 formation which focuses on pressing hard out of possession and, in possession, getting the ball forward quickly. 

What is the mood like among supporters, is it one of confidence and optimism or nerves?

Because this position is so unexpected, I think the main mood is one of pure happiness, excitement and a slight tinge of disbelief. 

READ MORE: Royals boss confirms key trio nearing return to action

But now they are five points clear in the top six going into the last month of the season, some nerves will probably creep in.

There is a long way to go but I think there is a quiet confidence that the Reds have a very good chance of a play-off place. 

Who are the key men for Reading to watch out for?

The captain Alex Mowatt is their key player. He has had more of an attacking role this season which has led to him registering six goals and seven assists from central midfield. 

Cauley Woodrow is the top-scorer with 13 goals, while January recruits Daryl Dike and Carlton Morris have 11 between them in 11 starts combined. 

Otherwise, centre-backs Michal Helik (if he plays after possibly representing Poland at Wembley on Wednesday night) and Mads Andersen have been outstanding this season, while they are both in the division’s top five for clearances, interceptions and winning headers.

Wing-backs Callum Styles and Callum Brittain add a verve and dynamism to the side as well as goals and assists. 

Score prediction?

2-1 to Barnsley