CITY must take down the best squad in League One when they face Yorkshire rivals Barnsley this weekend.

That’s the view of David Hopkin, who believes the Tykes possess more strength in depth than any of their promotion rivals.

Hopkin has been nominated alongside Barnsley boss Daniel Stendel in the four-man shortlist to be named manager of the month for December.

But he admits his German rival has the dressing-room options to outstrip the rest of the division.

Hopkin said: “Barnsley are one of the better teams in terms of their league position.

“But all-round squad-wise, they’ve probably got the best squad in this league.

“I watched the FA Cup game on Saturday against Burnley and thought they were fantastic.

“They’ve got a great age group of players. I think the oldest one they had in the group was 27 which is fantastic.

“They’ve got a blend of experience but not too much. There is plenty of legs and energy.

“We played them in the Checkatrade Trophy and they made 10 or 11 changes and still put out a very good side. So, you can see they’ve got a great squad.”

Unlike Sunderland, Barnsley did not make wholesale changes when they were relegated from the Championship last season.

Hopkin reckons the ability to hold on to the bulk of that side, including targetman Kieffer Moore, has been crucial.

He added: “It’s good management to keep them all together. They are a very good side, very physical and do everything in the game well, whether it’s pressing or attacking.

“There is a good shape about them but the biggest thing they do have is a lot of energy in their team. We have to be able to match that.

"We know it will be another tough game. But it's a Yorkshire derby and one we are all looking forward to.”

Hopkin has continued to bring down the age of his own squad this week with Jim O’Brien’s departure to Notts County at the end of his short-term deal.

Twenty-one-year-old centre half Paudie O’Connor is pushing for his first involvement after arriving on loan from Leeds.

Hopkin added: “You’ve got to have a mixture and the right blend of players. The ones we’ve got who are 29, 30, 31 are all fit.

“Ideally, it’s good if you’ve got players aged between 23 and 27 who have got that experience. That’s a good age, as long as they’ve played enough football.

“They are at the stage where some will have played nearly 200 games in their career. But I always like to have a couple of experienced players in my team.”