A year ago, the Panthers and Eels squared off in the grand final, but now they sit 10 places apart on the ladder and Parramatta's dreams of a drought-breaking premiership are in tatters.
The Eels' September hopes were snuffed out in Friday night's loss to the Roosters, leaving them in 11th place with an 11-12 record.
The ladder leading Panthers, meanwhile, overcame the absence of Brian To'o, Scott Sorensen and Mitch Kenny to roll past the Titans for their 17th win of the season.
If the premiers can down the Eels on Thursday they will likely secure their third minor premiership in four years, potentially giving coach Ivan Cleary the luxury of being able to rest players from the Round 27 clash with the Cowboys should he choose.
The Eels have the bye in the last round so this week's western Sydney derby is their final chance to restore some lost pride and give their loyal fans some joy at the end of a tough season.
Panthers: Dylan Edwards and Sunia Turuva have come out of the side on Wednesday and will be rested so Jesse McLean comes in at fullback for his NRL debut and Tom Jenkins keeps his place on the wing. Brian To'o is back after being rested but hooker Mitch Kenny and forward Scott Sorensen remain sidelined so Jack Cogger holds the No.9 jersey and Zac Hosking lines up again in the back row. Still no sign of centre Izack Tago (leg). There were no further changes when the sides were finalised 60 minutes before kick-off.
Eels: Shaun Lane is back from an elbow injury for Parramatta's final game of the regular season. Lane will start off the bench alongside Junior Paulo and J'maine Hopgood, who moved from the starting side when the side was finalised 60 minutes before kick-off. Wiremu Greig will start in the front-row, while Joe Ofahengaue is lock. Brendan Hands is 18th man.
Match: Panthers v Eels
Round 26 -
Fullback for Panthers is number 20 Jesse McLeanFullback for Eels is number 1 Clinton Gutherson
Winger for Panthers is number 5 Brian To'oWinger for Eels is number 2 Maika Sivo
Centre for Panthers is number 3 Tyrone PeacheyCentre for Eels is number 3 Will Penisini
Centre for Panthers is number 4 Stephen CrichtonCentre for Eels is number 4 Bailey Simonsson
Winger for Panthers is number 21 Tom JenkinsWinger for Eels is number 5 Sean Russell
Five-Eighth for Panthers is number 6 Jarome LuaiFive-Eighth for Eels is number 6 Daejarn Asi
Halfback for Panthers is number 7 Nathan ClearyHalfback for Eels is number 7 Dylan Brown
Prop for Panthers is number 8 Moses LeotaProp for Eels is number 8 Reagan Campbell-Gillard
Hooker for Panthers is number 9 Jack CoggerHooker for Eels is number 9 Joey Lussick
Prop for Panthers is number 10 James Fisher-HarrisProp for Eels is number 16 Wiremu Greig
2nd Row for Panthers is number 11 Zac Hosking2nd Row for Eels is number 11 Ryan Matterson
2nd Row for Panthers is number 12 Liam Martin2nd Row for Eels is number 12 Bryce Cartwright
Lock for Panthers is number 13 Isaah YeoLock for Eels is number 17 Joe Ofahengaue
Interchange for Panthers is number 14 Soni LukeInterchange for Eels is number 10 Junior Paulo
Interchange for Panthers is number 15 Lindsay SmithInterchange for Eels is number 13 J'maine Hopgood
Interchange for Panthers is number 16 Spencer LeniuInterchange for Eels is number 14 Luca Moretti
Interchange for Panthers is number 17 Luke GarnerInterchange for Eels is number 15 Shaun Lane
Replacement for Panthers is number 18 Jaeman SalmonReplacement for Eels is number 19 Brendan Hands
- Referee: Ben Cummins
- Touch Judge: Chris Sutton
- Touch Judge: Liam Kennedy
- Senior Review Official: Chris Butler
- The Panthers' tally of 921 tackle breaks is second highest for the season behind the Knights (934).
- The Panthers have won 33 of 36 games at BlueBet Stadium since 2020.
- The Eels have won three of their past five games against the Panthers.
- Panthers winger Brian To’o has scored 14 tries from his past 10 games at BlueBet Stadium.
• The Eels have conceded an average of 35 points in their past seven games.
- Panthers second-rower Liam Martin will make his 100th NRL appearance.
- Eels winger Maika Sivo has scored 29 tries in his past 35 games.
- Panthers Dylan Edwards and Sunia Turuva ran for a combined 672 metres when these two sides met in Round 4.
Match: Panthers v Eels
Round 26 -
Venue: BlueBet Stadium, Penrith
Stats supplied by David Middleton, League Information Services, author of the official annual of the NRL.