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Eels-Panthers destined for September clash

Parramatta centre Michael Jennings insists an upset win over Penrith on Friday night can give the Eels an early advantage come the NRL finals.

The Eels remain the only team to have knocked Penrith off this season, way back in round five when three second-half tries in six minutes sealed a 16-10 win.

Since then Penrith have won 12 straight, while the Eels will admit their football hasn’t quite been the same in the past month.

In a COVID-free world this weekend would mark the first week of the NRL’s finals.

And based on current form there’s every chance Parramatta and Penrith would still be meeting on Friday night.

“Winning this will give us a great confidence boost going into the finals,” Jennings said.

“Because we might play them again first round going into the finals.

“If we can get the win this weekend it will put us in good stead going into the finals.”

A win on Friday will wrap up a top-four spot for the Eels.

And after no fans were allowed in for their last meeting, Friday’s clash is easily the most highly anticipated western derby in years.

The limited tickets sold out to Penrith members more than a week ago.

Jennings is eying a match up against Brent Naden, himself once the up-and-coming flyer in the centres for the Panthers.

Nathan Cleary up against Mitchell Moses in the halves will likely be the headline act.

The forward battle is arguably the best in the game, with James Tamou, James Fisher-Harris and Isaah Yeo turning it on for Penrith against Junior Paulo, Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Shaun Lane.

“They’re sitting at the top of the table for a reason, and I think a lot of that is coming off what their forward pack is doing,” Paulo said.

“You can’t take anything away from their pack and it’s going to be a tough task for us to match up with them.”

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