Elland Road will play host to a mouthwatering clash between arch-rivals Leeds Rhinos and Castleford Tigers on Friday. It will be the first time the two sides have met in the league since last year's Grand Final showdown. That night ended miserably for the Tigers, but brilliantly for the Rhinos as Leeds were victorious, 6-24. Whilst Castleford lost their first-ever Super League Grand Final, Leeds registered a record-eighth title. Now, both sides are going head-to-head in what has been labelled ##TheCLash for bragging rights once more.

Injuries

Both sides are currently swamped with injuries, despite Leeds only playing five games and Castleford just four.

The Rhinos are unchanged for this week's clash though they still have seven absentees. Leeds are still without Liam Sutcliffe (ankle), Adam Cuthbertson (hand), Stevie Ward (calf), Mitch Garbutt (knee), Brett Ferres (knee), Jimmy Keinhorst (knee) and Nathaniel Peteru (bicep). Castleford, meanwhile, have also been struck by injuries to key men; Jesse Sene-Lefao has undergone surgery after suffering an MCL meniscus injury, whilst Greg Eden and Joe Wardle (both hamstring) both remain out for the foreseeable.

Form

Leeds head into the fixture on the back of a fantastic 20-28 victory over St Helens in last week's televised Thursday night clash, whilst Castleford's last game was played two weeks ago with the "Beast from the East" once more causing havoc with the Tigers' fixture list. That game was against Salford and though Castleford demolished the Red Devils in the first-half - they went in leading 20-0 - they stalled in the second, conceding two tries and only having a penalty goal to show for their second-half efforts.

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Leeds have four wins from five so far and their only defeat came at the hands of Widnes after a short turnaround from the World Club Challenge. Castleford have won three from four and their only defeat came in embarrassing fashion in round one at the hands of red-hot St Helens. Since then, the Tigers have picked up form despite looking shaky and disjointed.

Recent head-to-head form

Before October's Grand Final, Castleford had beaten Leeds eight times in a row in the league with Tigers head coach Daryl Powell seemingly having an imperious hold over his opposite number Brian McDermott for whom this will be his 200th Super League game since taking over at Leeds in 2010. In 2017, Castleford beat their arch-rivals three times in the league and once in the Super 8s - including an impressive 66-10 hammering in early March - but Leeds won when it mattered most. Though the Castleford players have said they have "moved on" from the Grand Final, it remains to be seen whether or not it will play in the back of their minds.

Key battles

Castleford's problem at full-back has been well-documented, but with Ben Roberts improving as the games go on, the battle between him and Leeds' No.1 Jack Walker - if he plays in front of Ashton Golding - will be interesting. The partnership of Joel Moon and Richie Myler looked impressive in the Rhinos' victory over Saints, whilst Luke Gale and Jamie Ellis are starting to click too.

However, this battle is likely to be won in the forwards. Fringe players Jack Ormondroyd and Mikolaj Oledzki are likely to retain their places whilst Castleford's Junior Moors will come back into the fray after being rested two weeks ago. If Moors, Grant Millington and Matt Cook get a roll on, it will be hard to step the Tigers going forward. Castleford therefore appear stronger in the forward department on paper, despite Jesse Sene-Lefao's injury.

Elland Road

Hosting the match at Elland Road has benefits and disadvantages for both sides. Leeds are not at their Headingley ground - famous for an intimidating atmosphere - whilst Castleford may be overawed by the occasion as they were in last year's Grand Final. On the other hand, Leeds have already experienced the ground and playing surface, having played against Hull KR at Elland Road in round two, whilst Castleford have generally performed well at neutral stadiums with the exception of the 2017 Grand Final - the Tigers have won their last five at the Magic Weekend.

It is expected to be a bumper crowd - over 20,000 tickets have been sold already with Castleford fans going in their droves, especially as many of them are Leeds United fans too. The atmosphere will therefore be electric and Sky must be rubbing their hands at the thought of what should be a fantastic game. #RugbyLeague #SLLeeCas