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Round 9: Key Match-Ups

The last time the Sharks took on the Eels one side would walk away with an 0-3 start to the 2018 season. Tonight, one will leave Southern Cross Group Stadium having won their last three matches in a row.

What a difference six weeks can make.

The Sharks' depth has well and truly been tested having racked up a mountain of injuries to a number of stars, while the Eels have had some key men return to lead the way in playing with a new level of confidence and enthusiasm.

We take a look at some of the key match-ups set to ignite across the park tonight, hoping to set the tone for their side and secure the all important two competition points.

Valentine Holmes vs Clint Gutherson

Valentine Holmes will return to the number one jersey tonight, looking to continue on with his try-scoring run over the last four games.

He'll be out to show that he's still got what it takes to be a force at the back for the Sharks and give Maroons selectors a taste of what they can expect should they call him back in to the Queensland side.

After going without a 4-pointer in the first four matches of the season, the last four for Val have all included at least one try.

He only needs one more to bring up his 50th NRL try, and if he does, he'll equal Mat Rogers record as the fastest player to 50 tries for Cronulla.

Interestingly though, the Eels are just one of three teams Val's yet to score a meat pie against.

On the other side of the ledger is Clint Gutherson. 

Just three games back from an ACL injury, his energy at the back has lifted the struggling Eels to back-to-back victories, showing why he's so valuable to the blue and gold.

The Eels have lost all four away matches this season though, but will be hoping that Gutherson can spark the attack for the visiting side to come away with a win.

Chad Townsend vs Mitchell Moses

After subjecting the Titans to heartbreak last week, snapping a 79th minute field-goal for a gritty 1-point win, Chad Townsend will be out to inflict more pain on the Eels tonight.

When the two sides last met back in round 3, all 14 of the Sharks points would come from the Sharks halfback, who at the time was knocking over conversions with a 100% success rate for the season.

One of the constants in 2018, Chad has shown that he has what it takes to lead the Sharks to another final series appearance, he just needs some more time with Moylan by his side to get their halves combination firing.

Chad's really matured as a player in 2018, taking the reigns and showing that he and Moylan have what it takes to bring the Sharks some much needed points. If it wasn't for the massive injury toll over the opening rounds I'm sure we would be seeing more consistency in attack.

After back-to-back wins for the black, white and blue, with Chad and Moyza firmly cemented in the halves, look for them continue to build toward a third straight victory tonight.

Lining up on the other side of the field is Eels playmaker Mitch Moses.

After stumbling and spluttering their way through six games of football to remain the only winless team in the NRL, things just didn't seem to be going to plan for the Eels half.

But off the back of strong back-to-back performances he's thrown his name back into the mix for Origin and will be hoping to again lead the way with a strong 80-minute performance to help the blue and gold to their third straight win.

Kurt Capewell vs Manu Ma'u

Kurt Capewell has again shown just how versatile of a player he is throughout the opening two months of the 2018 season.

With the massive amount of injuries the Sharks have copped, he's slotted in seamlessly in both the forward pack and backline, earning his call up to the starting side tonight.

'Capes' has played all eight games so far this season, with a couple of 80 minute performancs thrown in there. He's a big and strong runner of the ball who hits a great line and is really solid in defence.

He'll be looking to prove his point tonight and show that he can lock down the starting role when and if some of the Sharks older heads move on.

Donning the blue and gold though and out to stop him will be the beast that is Manu Ma'u.

Last week Ma'u powered over off a Corey Norman pass to claim the match-winning try for the Eels and will be riding high on that confidence coming in to tonight's match.

Both these men will be looking to stick solid in both attack and defence for their side tonight, and this one should be a great battle to watch.