Knights v Eels preview

Newcastle Knights v Parramatta Eels
Hunter Stadium
Sunday 4pm

In the past fortnight the Knights and Eels couldn't buy a vowel on the wheel of fortune, let alone a win in the NRL.

Both teams have been surprisingly ordinary recently after making promising starts to their seasons.

Newcastle, who have been defeated in the wet in consecutive weeks at the hands of the Sharks and Dragons, will come up against a Parramatta side that hasn't fared much better, losing to the Wests Tigers and the Titans.

Both teams will be desperate to snap their losing streaks on Sunday afternoon, but both have largely stuck with unchanged squads for what's looming as a crucial clash.

Tyler Randell returns to the Knights interchange which also contains young gun Sione Mata'utia.

A returning Richie Fa'aoso has been named 18th man for Parramatta in an otherwise unchanged side that will celebrate the 150th NRL appearances of captain Tim Mannah and halfback Chris Sandow.

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Watch out Knights: The Knights' biggest enemy currently is the weather. In their past two games – their only two losses for the year so far – the Knights have drowned under the demands of playing wet weather football. They'll need to make amends quick smart because Sunday's forecast isn't looking good. It'll be a matter of going through the Eels defence this weekend rather than around them in what is looking likely to be another wet affair. 

Watch out Eels: Set to play his third game for Newcastle this weekend – if he overcomes a slight shoulder complaint – Tariq Sims looks ready to explode. While his current tally of 116.9 metres and 40.5 tackles per game is an improvement on his last season with North Queensland, Sims is still looking to find much-needed aggression in his game that everyone has come to know and love. Now with some match fitness under his belt, Sims could be in for a big one.

Key Match-Up: Jeremy Smith v Anthony Watmough. They have been rivals since the Sea Eagles and Storm played in consecutive grand finals back in 2007 and 2008 so it makes sense the two locks are the key match-up in this one. Both men have been leading the way for their sides this season, especially Smith who celebrates his 35th birthday this week.  Averaging similar numbers in metres made (Smith with 85.3 metres to Watmough's 92.7) and tackles (Smith's 30.5 to Watmough's 34.8) the good form of these men will definitely impact their side's fortunes. 

The History: Played 46; Knights 26, Eels 19, Draw 1. Parramatta will become Newcastle's most-played opponent this weekend, alongside the Roosters, and the Knights couldn't be happier about it. The Novocastrians have won their past seven games against the Eels including a huge 42-12 victory in Round 25 last year which all but rubbed out Parramatta's chances of making the finals.

What are the Odds: Knights $1.50; Eels $2.60. There's been more than twice as much money placed on the Eels at what Sportsbet punters believe is a juicy price. Parramatta receiving 6.5 at the line has been identified as the way to go according to the money trail. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au

Match Officials: Referee – Adam Devcich; Assistant Referee – David Munro; Sideline Officials – Brett Suttor and Phil Henderson; Video Referees – Steve Clark and Luke Phillips.

Televised: Channel Nine – Live (3:30pm)

The Way We See It: With both teams sticking to the losing column for the past fortnight, they'll be desperate to avoid three straight defeats. It's hard to go past Newcastle though. They are at home, they have history on their side and if there's one team that has been going just as bad as the struggling Knights recently, it's Parramatta. Knights by two points.