All eyes might be on Liverpool versus Manchester United this weekend but for those of us at the less box-office end of the game, the biggest red match in town is taking place a few miles down the road in Barnsley as the Addicks travel to South Yorkshire.

Almost a year ago, a day after appointing Dean Holden as our fifth manager in less than two years, we faced Brighton in the EFL Cup. That set us up with a dream tie against Manchester United at Old Trafford. Then too, they had high hopes of a recent managerial change bringing promises of a better future ahead.

A year on, things have gone sour for both managers on the sidelines on that night of our eventual 3-0 defeat in Manchester's theatre of dreams. Dean Holden departed Charlton before the season had barely begun whilst currently Erik Ten Hag is teetering on the brink; with a 'derby' to come against a marauding Liverpool side at the weekend.

But as the world awaits English football's hottest rivalry, another battle of the reds takes place a day earlier. Though this match might not quite generate the same headlines as events at Anfield, it's a big day for Barnsley.

If they beat us, their points total will be the highest at this stage of a season since the 1978/79 campaign.

That's some motivation for them considering they always seem to be in the promotion mix whenever we are playing them, except for maybe that glorious 6-0 drubbing over ten years ago. This time round, sadly there's unlikely to be any 6-0 hammering because we just don't have a squad of that calibre. Michael Appleton acknowledged that after losing last weekend's physical battle against Cambridge and this week he has called for more than just 'a handful to come through the door.'

Without a good result in Barnsley, our season is going to get a whole lot harder for sure - not just physically, but mentally too. Barnsley are sitting in seventh, two points outside the play off zone and seven points above us with the same number of games played. In fact the only area where we're stronger than them is in goals scored and we all know who we have to thank for that.

Last year it took an EFL Cup run to brighten our season. This time round, Alfie May has been the one bright spark in a season that's in danger of fizzling out even before the Christmas lights. If we don't take at least a point up at the Oakwell, we could find ourselves dangerously adrift of a top seven that are all high on points gained for this stage of a season; and yet, to begin with, so many of us expected this to be an unremarkable division with few stand out teams.

Portsmouth and Bolton are certainly proving people wrong on that front, but the likes of Stevenage are continuing to defy expectations too. Strangely though, performances such as that one in Stevenage should give us hope. There, when we really needed a result, we got a vital draw.

Hopefully this weekend too we can produce an unlikely result, bagging three points in Barnsley. It's more likely than our old rivals Manchester United coming back with anything from Anfield. But ... one thing that we and United have in common this season, aside from poor form in the cups ... we each provide just enough hope to kill, as the expression goes.

So it wouldn't surprise me if we beat Barnsley and United beat Liverpool a day later and then we both go into the Xmas period full of expectation, only to come through it with our stockings empty.  We hope not and maybe alongside George Dobson's vegan delights, Michael Appleton can add a bit of meat to the squad in the January window!