Eels v Wests Tigers preview

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Parramatta Eels v Wests Tigers Thursday 7:50pm at Bankwest Stadium

Bitter rivals do battle at Bankwest to open Round 11

Ah, the Eels versus the Wests Tigers. Over the last decade or so, this matchup has been the clash of the also-rans, with the victor taking more comfort in an increased chance of avoiding the wooden spoon than winning the comp. Both sides have experienced extended breaks from finals football recently, with the Tigers last semi-final bout coming in 2011 and the Eels breaking a 7-year drought in 2017. Despite this, fans of the respective clubs have still taken the match very seriously.

This Thursday, the stakes are arguably as high as they've ever been. The annual cries of "this year is our year" from out Parramatta way are becoming more and more warranted as the weeks go by, while the Wests Tigers are in a great position to finally shake off the 9th hoodoo that has plagued them in years gone by. 

Last week, the Eels were ousted from the top of the table for the first time in 2020 after going down to an understrength Manly side in a game that was close on the scoreboard but never looked in any real doubt for the Sea Eagles.  Whilst Parramatta themselves were missing arguably 3 of their most influential players, Brad Arthur wouldn't have been happy with his team's showing and will be expecting a dramatic improvement this week.

The Wests Tigers brought the Broncos right back down to Earth with a 48-0 thumping in a return to their spiritual home ground of Leichhardt Oval, the win one that the Balmain and Western Suburbs faithful alike will remember for a long time. Their performance was outstanding; however the Eels are a much tougher defensive opponent and they will need to play at least as well or better than last week if they are to come away with the upset.

The Eels receive a mighty boost to their 17, with stars Blake Ferguson, Mitchell Moses and Ryan Matterson each coming back into their respective starting positions. That all pushes George Jennings, Jai Field and David Gower out of the side, with Brad Takairangi moving back to the interchange. 

The Wests Tigers have just the one change, with Michael Chee-Kam starting in the back row replacing Luke Garner, who suffered a delayed concussion during the week. NRL rookie Billy Walters has kept his spot at five-eighth after an impressive performance last start, consigning Luke Brooks to the bench for at least another week.

Last meeting: Round 17 2019 - Wests Tigers 18 Eels 30

Who to watch: Former Tigers turned Eels Mitchell Moses and Ryan Matterson will be up for this one against their old club. Both players have recently left the Tigers for Parramatta in less than ideal circumstances which has only ignited this rivalry. Matterson in particular is not the most popular figure amongst Tigers fans and there will be no love lost when he lines up against his former teammates. However, if his 2020 form is anything to go by, he will be more than ready for the onslaught. 

Benji Marshall had a point to prove last week after being recalled to the Tigers side for the first time since Round 4 and he did it in style. He showed Michael Maguire exactly why he should be a mainstay in the number 7 jumper, racking up 2 line break assists, a try assist and a meat pie of his own. Doing that against the Broncos is one thing, but if the veteran halfback really wants that extra job security, an equally as impressive performance against the Eels would certainly not go astray.

The favourite: The Eels are heavily backed to bounce back from last week's disappointment.

My tip: Right from when that whistle goes and the opening hit up is taken, there will be a LOT of feeling in this one. Both sides have shown glimpses of what they are capable of this year with ball in hand, with the Wests sitting 3rd and the Eels 5th for points scored. Despite last week's form, it's hard to see the Tigers matching it with the Eels for the full 80, and Parramatta's poor performance last week will only add fire to the belly. Eels by 10.

1. Clinton Gutherson 2. Maika Sivo 3. Michael Jennings 4. Waqa Blake 5. Blake Ferguson 6. Dylan Brown 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Junior Paulo 11. Shaun Lane 12. Ryan Matterson 13. Nathan Brown 14. Andrew Davey 15. Marata Niukore 16. Stefano Utoikamanu 17. Brad Takairangi

1. Adam Doueihi 2. David Nofoaluma 3. Chris Lawrence 4. Moses Mbye 5. Tommy Talau 6. Billy Walters 7. Benji Marshall 8. Josh Aloiai 9. Harry Grant 10. Russell Packer 14. Sam McIntyre 12. Luciano Leilua 13. Matt Eisenhuth 11. Michael Chee-Kam 16. Luke Brooks 18. Oliver Clark 20. Shawn Blore

Referees: Gerard Sutton; Sideline Officials: Chris Butler, Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski; Video Referees: Jared Maxwell, Ben Galea;

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