Minor premiers Penrith go into a sold-out opening finals clash with the Sydney Roosters firing on all cylinders and looking to extend their club-record winning streak.
While the Panthers tuned up for this clash by cantering to a 15th straight victory over the Bulldogs, scoring eight tries, the Roosters were ripped apart in a 60-8 loss to the Rabbitohs.
Penrith beat the Roosters 20-14 in round one but the intensity will be even higher this time with a preliminary final berth on the line.
Match: Panthers v Roosters
Finals Week 1 -
Venue: Panthers Stadium, Penrith
Panthers: The Panthers are 1-17. Winger Brian To'o jammed his ankle last round but didn't require scans and, having been named, looks on track to play. Coach Ivan Cleary said after round 20's win that his squad was otherwise healthy.
Dean Whare and Matt Burton were the two players dropped from the squad 24 hours before the match.
Fullback Dylan Edwards, centre Stephen Crichton and second-rower Viliame Kikau are back after being rested, with Daine Laurie, Matt Burton and Spencer Leniu dropping out. Utility Tyrone May and back-rower Kurt Capewell have reverted to the bench.
Penrith have won three of their past four games against the Roosters at Panthers Stadium.
Mitch Kenny and Leniu were the last two players omitted an hour before kick-off.
The ultimate test: Panthers juggernaut meets Roosters on the rebound
Roosters: Angus Crichton comes into the starting side in No.16 with Sitili Tupouniua going back to the bench. Mitch Aubusson takes the final spot on the interchange bench, while Lachlan Lam comes out of the line-up.
Sonny Bill Williams won't face the Panthers after being omitted from the squad 24 hours before kick-off. On Thursday night the Roosters said the star signing wouldn't play due to a "flare up of a neck complaint". Williams and Matt Ikuvalu were the two players dropped from the squad.
Nat Butcher in jersey 18 comes on to the bench for Williams.
Hooker Jake Friend is out after a head knock last week but winger Brett Morris, centre Joey Manu, lock Isaac Liu and bench prop Lindsay Collins will all return after a rest. Freddy Lussick has replaced Friend at hooker.
The Roosters have won their past six finals matches.
Poasa Faamausili was the other player cut an hour before game time.
Fullback for Panthers is number 1 Dylan EdwardsFullback for Roosters is number 1 James Tedesco
Winger for Panthers is number 2 Josh MansourWinger for Roosters is number 2 Daniel Tupou
Centre for Panthers is number 3 Brent NadenCentre for Roosters is number 3 Josh Morris
Centre for Panthers is number 4 Stephen CrichtonCentre for Roosters is number 4 Joseph Manu
Winger for Panthers is number 5 Brian To'oWinger for Roosters is number 5 Brett Morris
Five-Eighth for Panthers is number 6 Jarome LuaiFive-Eighth for Roosters is number 6 Luke Keary
Halfback for Panthers is number 7 Nathan ClearyHalfback for Roosters is number 7 Kyle Flanagan
Prop for Panthers is number 8 James TamouProp for Roosters is number 8 Jared Waerea-Hargreaves
Hooker for Panthers is number 9 Apisai KoroisauHooker for Roosters is number 9 Freddy Lussick
Prop for Panthers is number 10 James Fisher-HarrisProp for Roosters is number 10 Siosiua Taukeiaho
2nd Row for Panthers is number 11 Viliame Kikau2nd Row for Roosters is number 11 Boyd Cordner
2nd Row for Panthers is number 12 Liam Martin2nd Row for Roosters is number 16 Angus Crichton
Lock for Panthers is number 13 Isaah YeoLock for Roosters is number 13 Isaac Liu
Interchange for Panthers is number 14 Tyrone MayInterchange for Roosters is number 12 Sitili Tupouniua
Interchange for Panthers is number 15 Kurt CapewellInterchange for Roosters is number 15 Lindsay Collins
Interchange for Panthers is number 16 Moses LeotaInterchange for Roosters is number 18 Nat Butcher
Interchange for Panthers is number 17 Zane TetevanoInterchange for Roosters is number 19 Mitchell Aubusson
- Referee: Gerard Sutton
- Touch Judge: Chris Butler
- Touch Judge: Todd Smith
- Senior Review Official: Steve Chiddy
Nathan Cleary v Luke Keary. Few would argue that Panthers halfback Cleary has been the best half, if not player, of the regular season. Now his challenge is handling the immense pressure of the finals spotlight - which can be blinding. Keary usually grows an extra leg at this time of the year and the Roosters five-eighth will be out to prove a point after last week's result.
The last time Penrith met the Roosters in week one of the finals was at Allianz Stadium in 2014. On that night, Jamie Soward booted a field goal to secure a 19-18 win for the Panthers.