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In-form Eels battle a Roosters side attempting to keep in touch with the Top Four
After a week of controversy surrounding winger Shaun Kenny-Dowall, the Roosters will be eager to get back onto the field, with a spot in the Top Four up for grabs if they are able to overcome Parramatta. After scraping home against the Dragons, the Roosters were on the other side of a one-point loss the week later when a Shaun Johnson penalty goal kicked the Warriors to a 14-13 win. The loss means that the Roosters, after opening the season with four straight wins, have now only won two of their past five. Despite an impressive defensive record, having kept their opposition to fewer than 14 points in five of their past seven, their attack has not exactly set the world on fire. They have only managed to score over 14 points twice in their past seven games. On an individual level, this clash shapes as an important one for halfback Mitchell Pearce, who will look to stamp his claims for an Origin jersey.
Meanwhile, although the Eels may not have many players pushing for Origin spots, their side as a whole will be very motivated to claim victory on Sunday in order to consolidate their spot in the Top Eight. Parramatta have stormed into the Eight off the back of three straight wins. However, their victory over the Cowboys a fortnight ago was the most impressive of all. The Eels were in control for the whole game, running away with a commanding 26-6 win. Fullback Bevan French has been named on the extended bench and his inclusion would be a massive boost for the Parramatta side, despite Clinton Gutherson's noteworthy efforts filling in for him.
Last meeting: Round 18 2016 - Eels 22 Roosters 18
The Eels claimed a thrilling 22-18 win at Parramatta in Round 18. The Roosters hold the advantage in seventy years of clashes and have won seven of the last ten against the Eels dating back to 2009.
Who to watch: The match-up between halfbacks Mitchell Pearce and Corey Norman will likely decide the outcome of this one. Pearce has been mentioned as a front-runner for the halfback position in the opening State of Origin clash and his ability to steer his side around will need to be on show on Sunday if he is to convince Coach Laurie Daley that he is the man to lead the Blues to victory.
Norman has been outstanding for the Eels this season and is a dark horse for Jonathan Thurston's Origin jumper if the halfback is out with injury. His attacking brilliance has been of particular significance in Parramatta's rise this season. Norman has scored the third most tries for the Eels this year as well as the second most line breaks and tackle busts. His general kicking game has also been important in giving the Eels direction in attack and his efforts will be crucial this week.
The favourite: The Roosters are well-backed to bounce back this week.
My tip: In a low-scoring thriller, look for the Roosters to have too much class. Roosters by 4.
1. Michael Gordon 2. Daniel Tupou 3. Latrell Mitchell 4. Joseph Manu 5. Blake Ferguson 6. Luke Keary 7. Mitchell Pearce 8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 9. Jake Friend 10. Dylan Napa 11. Boyd Cordner 12. Mitchell Aubusson 13. Sio Siua Taukeiaho 14. Aidan Guerra 15. Zane Tetevano 16. Kane Evans 17. Connor Watson
1. Clint Gutherson 2. Semi Radradra 3. Michael Jennings 4. Kirisome Auva'a 5. Josh Hoffman 6. Will Smith 7. Corey Norman 8. Suaia Matagi 9. Kaysa Pritchard 10. Tim Mannah 11. Manu Ma'u 12. Tepai Moeroa 13. Nathan Brown 15. Daniel Alvaro 16. Kenny Edwards 17. Siosaia Vave 18. David Gower
Referees: Grant Atkins, Gavin Reynolds; Sideline Officials: Chris Butler, Rohan Best; Video Referees: Bernard Sutton, Bryan Norrie;