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The Eels are a couple more wins away from beginning to plan for playing in the finals as a top-four side.

If they're able to knock off the Dragons this week, they'll be at least three wins clear of fifth with only six matches remaining.

The Dragons don't want to hear anything about such talk; they need to win to keep their slim finals hopes alive.

The continued absence of Paul Vaughan due to a COVID regulations infraction doesn't help them at all.

The Rundown

Team news

Eels: Parramatta will start 1-17 after Andrew Davey and Haze Dunster were omitted 60 minutes before the match. Ryan Matterson will return from concussion in the back row with Marata Niukore dropping to the bench. Stefano Utoikamanu and Brad Takairangi were omitted 24 hours before kick-off.

The Eels have won nine of their past 10 games against the Dragons.

Dragons: St George Illawarra will start 1-17 after Brayden Wiliame and Eddie Blacker were the two players left out an hour before kick-off. Corey Norman has been recalled at five-eighth, shifting Ben Hunt to hooker and Cam McInnes to lock with the suspended Jackson Ford out. Tyrell Fuimaono starts in the back row following a shoulder injury to Tariq Sims.

Trent Merrin is also out with Korbin Sims and Jacob Host the new faces on the pine. Jason Saab and Jayden Sullivan were the players to drop out of the extended squad on Friday night.

The Dragons have averaged 25 points per game since Round 9 but won only twice.

Team Lists

Backs

  • Fullback for Eels is number 1 Clinton Gutherson
    Fullback for Dragons is number 1 Matthew Dufty
  • Winger for Eels is number 2 Maika Sivo
    Winger for Dragons is number 2 Jordan Pereira
  • Centre for Eels is number 3 Michael Jennings
    Centre for Dragons is number 3 Euan Aitken
  • Centre for Eels is number 4 Waqa Blake
    Centre for Dragons is number 4 Zac Lomax
  • Winger for Eels is number 5 Blake Ferguson
    Winger for Dragons is number 5 Mikaele Ravalawa
  • Five-Eighth for Eels is number 6 Dylan Brown
    Five-Eighth for Dragons is number 6 Corey Norman
  • Halfback for Eels is number 7 Mitchell Moses
    Halfback for Dragons is number 7 Adam Clune

Forwards

  • Prop for Eels is number 8 Reagan Campbell-Gillard
    Prop for Dragons is number 8 Blake Lawrie
  • Hooker for Eels is number 9 Reed Mahoney
    Hooker for Dragons is number 9 Ben Hunt
  • Prop for Eels is number 10 Junior Paulo
    Prop for Dragons is number 10 Josh Kerr
  • 2nd Row for Eels is number 11 Shaun Lane
    2nd Row for Dragons is number 11 Tyson Frizell
  • 2nd Row for Eels is number 12 Ryan Matterson
    2nd Row for Dragons is number 12 Tyrell Fuimaono
  • Lock for Eels is number 13 Nathan Brown
    Lock for Dragons is number 13 Cameron McInnes

Interchange

  • Interchange for Eels is number 14 Ray Stone
    Interchange for Dragons is number 14 Tristan Sailor
  • Interchange for Eels is number 15 Marata Niukore
    Interchange for Dragons is number 15 Kaide Ellis
  • Interchange for Eels is number 16 Kane Evans
    Interchange for Dragons is number 16 Korbin Sims
  • Interchange for Eels is number 17 Oregon Kaufusi
    Interchange for Dragons is number 17 Jacob Host

Key match-up

Clint Gutherson v Matt Dufty. Gutherson continues to impress with his all-around game while Dufty has turned a 2020 campaign that at one stage included doubts over his future in the league into a great comeback story. Both men revel in open space. Dufty, in particular, is lethal against a tiring opposition.

Stat Attack

A look at the offload stats shows one outlier – the Eels. They have completed 59 more offloads than the second-placed team (the Roosters) and a whopping 88 more than the Dragons side they will face on Friday.