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Some important clashes this weekend, as Superleague gets one match closer to the play-offs. Only nine games to go, and this is the crunch time of the season where good clubs stand up and bad clubs can fall ? all the way down to a lower division. Round 20, game on!
Wigan v Wakefield (Friday - televised) This is the match with the most impact on the relegation battle. Wigan have moved within a win of Wakefield following the Warriors away win against Harlequins last week, and the Wildcats loss at home to St Helens. Wigan have been building their team and experienced a slow but steady climb in form over the past month with three straight wins. Though Wakefield will be pleased that they scored six tries in losing against the competition leaders, and will hope to do similar here with everything to play for. Hard one to tip, the TV cameras will be there so we can see the dramas unfold.
St Helens v Catalans (Friday) The competition leaders host the French side, and both teams will want to improve on their performances of last week. St Helens won comfortably against Wakefield, scoring nine tries but the worry for them is that they let in six. Catalans competed well against Hull and will be looking to do the same here, wanting to avoid the dent in pride that would come if they were to share the competition cellar with Wigan and Wakefield after this round. St Helens are missing Lee Gilmour and Willie Talau, but are expecting James Graham to return after being rested last week, and will debut youngster Ste Tryer in the backs. Catalans are expecting to return after missing the last two weeks through injury. You?d expect a St Helens home win, but they may not have it all their way.
Leeds v Bradford (Friday) The Yorkshire derby returns to Headingley, and is bound to be a sellout with no TV coverage of this match for the first time. Leeds are coming off a comfortable away win over Huddersfield, while Bradford went down narrowly at the hands of Salford last weekend. Lesley Vainikolo and Danny Maguire are expected to play after being rested last weekend following their participation in the GB v NZ game. Both sides will be raring to go in the hope of putting a win on their traditional rivals ahead of both qualifying for the play-offs. Another hard one to tip, Leeds having won their last five in a row but Bradford?s luck is due to change soon.
Salford v Hull (Saturday - televised) Saturday?s big game comes to us from The Willows, where Salford will be hoping to be the team to put an end to Hull?s recent string of eleven wins. Salford won a tough battle with Bradford by one point last week, having lost their previous two home games by one point. They have the confidence and talent to take this game to Hull, who are coming off a win in France last weekend. It?s third place versus fifth, and this will be a good preview of what these two sides will have in store for us in the play-offs. Hard to tip, this could be the week that the Hull winning streak is brought to an end.
Harlequins v Castleford (Saturday) Another important game, as Castleford have emerged as the team most likely to put pressure on the top six, and Harlequins are getting closer to the relegation danger zone. But these teams are only two points apart on the table, which tells us just how tight this competition is. Castleford are coming off a big and spiteful win over Warrington, where they scored nine tries to five against the higher ranked side. Harlequins went down in a vital game at home to Wigan, and if they lose again here, they could really be in trouble. Injuries have forced changes on the London side, and they will be hoping to end their three game losing streak. But on form and confidence Castleford might prove too strong here.
Warrington v Huddersfield (Saturday) Another important game in terms of the top six, where Warrington need to end their four match losing streak and try to cement their six spot in the play-offs. A loss here against Huddersfield would open that sixth spot up to a range of teams that move forward over coming weeks, including Castleford and Huddersfield themselves. Warrington lost their important match with Castleford last weekend by a big margin, and this game is just as important. Huddersfield though have lost their last three games as well, so one of these teams need to grasp the opportunity on offer and hit a patch of form. Very hard to tip this game, with Lee Briers and two other Wolves players extending their contracts mid-week, that might give the club the motivation in needs to improve here.