Traditional rivals Parramatta and Canterbury meet in a Bankwest Stadium blockbuster to kick-off the new season.
Having risen from last to fifth last season, the Eels have widespread expectation to improve again and challenge for the title.
The Bulldogs showed promise at the back-end of last year and were left rueing a slow start as they missed the finals by three points.
They have their work cut out to topple Parramatta at home, though, with Brad Arthur men's putting many a team to the sword on the fresh Bankwest Stadium turf in 2019.
Match: Eels v Bulldogs
Round 1 -
Venue: Bankwest Stadium, Sydney
Eels: Parramatta are 1-17, with Ray Stone and Oregon Kaufusi dropping off the reserve list on game day after Will Smith and George Jennings were cut on Wednesday night. Marquee forwards Ryan Matterson and Reagan Campbell-Gillard make their official club debuts in the Parramatta pack while Waqa Blake has won his battle to return from off-season surgery and will take his place in the centres. Maika Sivo also takes his place on the wing after being cleared to play by the NRL. The Eels will go into the clash with a monster bench featuring Brad Takairangi, Marata Nuikore, Kane Evans and Peni Terepo.
Bulldogs: The Bulldogs are also as named on Tuesday, with Ofahiki Ogden and Jake Averillo, Sione Katoa and Jack Cogger having dropped off the reserves list. Brandon Wakeham has been named to take Kieran Foran's place at five-eighth and will partner Lachlan Lewis in the halves. It's mostly good news on the injury front for the Bulldogs with Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Christian Chrichton and Nick Meaney all back after missing the final trial and Jeremy Marshall-King taking his place in the starting side after seeing no trial action. But Sauaso Sue (knee) and Marcelo Montoya (knee) failed to make the 21-man squad, joining Raymond Faitala-Mariner (ankle) and Chris Smith (knee) on the sideline.
Fullback for Eels is number 1 Clinton GuthersonFullback for Bulldogs is number 1 Dallin Watene-Zelezniak
Winger for Eels is number 2 Maika SivoWinger for Bulldogs is number 2 Nick Meaney
Centre for Eels is number 3 Michael JenningsCentre for Bulldogs is number 3 Reimis Smith
Centre for Eels is number 4 Waqa BlakeCentre for Bulldogs is number 4 Will Hopoate
Winger for Eels is number 5 Blake FergusonWinger for Bulldogs is number 5 Christian Crichton
Five-Eighth for Eels is number 6 Dylan BrownFive-Eighth for Bulldogs is number 6 Brandon Wakeham
Halfback for Eels is number 7 Mitchell MosesHalfback for Bulldogs is number 7 Lachlan Lewis
Prop for Eels is number 8 Reagan Campbell-GillardProp for Bulldogs is number 8 Aiden Tolman
Hooker for Eels is number 9 Reed MahoneyHooker for Bulldogs is number 9 Jeremy Marshall-King
Prop for Eels is number 10 Junior PauloProp for Bulldogs is number 10 Dylan Napa
2nd Row for Eels is number 11 Shaun Lane2nd Row for Bulldogs is number 11 Josh Jackson
2nd Row for Eels is number 12 Ryan Matterson2nd Row for Bulldogs is number 12 Joe Stimson
Lock for Eels is number 13 Nathan BrownLock for Bulldogs is number 13 Adam Elliott
Interchange for Eels is number 14 Brad TakairangiInterchange for Bulldogs is number 14 Dean Britt
Interchange for Eels is number 15 Marata NiukoreInterchange for Bulldogs is number 15 Renouf Atoni
Interchange for Eels is number 16 Kane EvansInterchange for Bulldogs is number 16 Raymond Faitala-Mariner
Interchange for Eels is number 17 Peni TerepoInterchange for Bulldogs is number 17 Kerrod Holland
- Referee: Grant Atkins
- Referee: Peter Gough
- Touch Judge: Todd Smith
Clint Gutherson v Dallin Watene-Zelezniak. Both men are leaders. Gutherson's strength is working with his fellow attacking players while Watene-Zelezniak boasts a running game capable of lifting any team.
For the Eels to win
They'll take confidence from last year but Parramatta will have to crawl before running again in 2020. If the Eels do the basics right, we know they've got the firepower to blow anybody off the park.
For the Bulldogs to win
It was Canterbury's gritty defence that inspired their late-season charge in 2019 and more of the same is required if they're to get off to a flyer. The kicking games of Lachlan Lewis and Brandon Wareham will be crucial given Parramatta boast one of the best back fives in the competition.
Brett Kimmorley says
I'm expecting Parramatta to make Bankwest Stadium a fortress again in 2020. Mitchell Moses would have already benefited from Andrew Johns's tutelage, while Reagan Campbell-Gillard could return to the best prop in the game at his new club. Eels by 8.
The Eels had plenty of individual chart-toppers last year, led by Mitch Moses finishing first in try assists (25), kicks (343) and kick metres (9,413). Maika Sivo was the NRL's leading try-scorer (22), Reed Mahoney topped the tackle count (1,221), while Junior Paulo was equal first in offloads (59) with Bulldogs back-rower Corey Harawira Naera.
And another thing ...
The Eels' top-four hopes were dealt a massive blow in round 23 last year when they were upset 12-6 by the Bulldogs at Bankwest Stadium. It was just the second loss all season at Bankwest for Brad Arthur's men as their much vaunted attack was restricted to a single try by a red-hot Bulldogs side which was coming off impressive wins over the Panthers, Wests Tigers and Rabbitohs.