If someone told you at the start of the season that Leeds Rhinos would be battling to avoid finishing bottom of the pile with only six regular rounds remaining, you’d be calling for the straightjacket.
That’s the reality which faces last year’s treble winners though as they sit bottom of the Super League table, two points adrift of Huddersfield Giants.
They entertain Salford Red Devils on Friday night with both sides staring down the barrel of the middle eight’s, with only 12 points up for grabs between now and the end of the season.
Although they won’t be admitting it, the Rhinos know that their chances of making the top eight are over with eight points separating them from Widnes Vikings.
Salford’s predicament isn’t as tricky though, as they are only four points off the Vikings in eighth spot and will need to end their Headingley hoodoo if they are to close the gap.
They have only won once away to Leeds in the summer era back in 2009 with a 30-20 victory, however they did win the previous meeting of the two clubs in round 10 with a 14-10 triumph at the AJ Bell Stadium.
The hosts go into the game off the back of seven straight loses, the most recent of which was a 24-12 defeat at the hands of Catalans Dragons.
Salford were edged out 23-20 by Wigan Warriors but had won back-to-back games before that, and if it wasn’t for their six point deduction they would be in seventh spot.
The Red Devils’ halfback combination of Robert Lui and Michael Dobson are firing and looking dangerous, with some big units in the middle causing damage too.
It will be a tough task for the young Leeds outfit, who were missing 10 first team players last week, and they will need their senior members of the squad to step up if they are to end this horror run they are currently on.
Leeds Rhinos 19 man squad
Kallum Watkins, Joel Moon, Danny McGuire, Rob Burow, Keith Galloway, Beau Falloon, Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Liam Sutcliffe, Brett Delaney, Brad Singleton, Mitch Garbutt, Jimmy Keinhorst, Mitch Achurch, Danny Mullally, Josh Walters, Ash Handley, Jordan Lilley, Brett Ferres, Luke Briscoe
Salford Red Devils 19 man squad
Gareth O’Brien, Jake Bibby, Justin Carney, Phil Joseph, Ryan Lannon, Robert Lui, Weller Hauraki, Michael Dobson, Mark Flanagan, Logan Tomkins, Craig Kopczak, Ben Murdoch-Masila, George Griffin, Josh Jones, Adam Walne, Olsi Krasniqi, Junior Sa’u, Daniel Vidot, Jordan Walne
Leeds have been hammered in three of their last four defeats, while Salford pushed Wigan all the way and came close to a third straight win last week. That momentum should carry the Red Devils over the line and bring them closer to the top eight. Salford Red Devils by 18 points.