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Super League: Widnes Vikings v Leeds Rhinos preview
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Widnes host Leeds at Select Security Stadium on Sunday with both sides looking to bounce back to winning ways in Super League.
The Vikings go into the clash on the back of a 48-4 drubbing at Wigan last time, and have failed to win in their last four Super League outings, while opponents Rhinos went down to a narrow 24-22 home defeat to Huddersfield.
That was Leeds' second Super League defeat in a row after a 24-6 reverse at Warrington, which has seen Brian McDermott’s side drop to third in the table, a point behind leaders Wigan.
The Vikings sit in eighth, with 17 points from their opening 16 fixtures, and head coach Denis Betts has targeted beating last year’s total of 22 points with 11 games left to play.
He told the club’s official website: “There are so many points we need to get to feel that we’ve achieved our goal this year, which is moving forward.
“At the moment 22 points is still our target so whether that be wins at home or wins away out of these next games.
“Our target is to get beyond what we did last year, and that target will remain the same next year and the year after that.”
The Widnes boss feels his side are suffering from a weight of expectation after their promising start to this campaign.
“The last couple of times we’ve played at home against Super League opposition our form hasn’t been great and I feel that’s caused by that expectation again,” he said.
“It’s something we’ve got to deal with. Leeds coming here is a big challenge for us, but that’s what we’re in this for.”
Vikings scrum-half Joe Mellor could make his return to Super League action after being named in the hosts’ 19-man squad.
The 23-year-old sustained a dislocated shoulder when the two teams met at Headingley back in March, with the Rhinos prevailing on that occasion 38-4.
Another from Widnes' long term injury list, former Wigan hooker Liam Carberry, is also available once more after not featuring since the pre-season trials.
But stand-off Kevin Brown is missing after limping off against the Warriors and skipper Jon Clarke is rested.
For Leeds, long-term absentee Paul Aiton is included for the first time since March, while Danny McGuire and Jamie Jones-Buchanan could also be set to make a return from injury.
Carl Ablett is back after missing the last two games through suspension.
Widnes: Ah Van, Allen, Carberry, Craven, Dean, Gerrard, Gilmore, Gore, Flynn, Hanbury, Isa, Johnson, Joseph, Kavanagh, Lawton, Leuluai, Marsh, Mellor, White.
Leeds: Ablett, Aiton, Bailey, Briscoe, Delaney, Hall, Jones-Bishop, Jones-Buchanan, Kirke, Leuluai, McGuire, Moon, Peacock, Sinfield, Singleton, Sutcliffe, Walters, Ward, Watkins.
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Super League Table
|9||Hull K R||22||20|
|11||Salford Red Devils||22||17|
|13||Bradford Bulls *||22||4|
|Thursday 31st July|
|20:00||Wigan vs Salford|
|Friday 1st August|
|20:00||Hull vs St Helens|
|20:00||Catalan Dragons vs Warrington|
|20:00||Leeds vs Bradford|
|Sunday 3rd August|
|15:00||Widnes vs Hull K R|
|15:00||Wakefield vs Huddersfield|
|15:30||Castleford vs London Broncos|
|Thursday 14th August|
|20:00||Hull K R vs Wigan|
|Friday 15th August|
|20:00||Salford vs Catalan Dragons|
|20:00||Warrington vs Castleford|
|Sunday 27th July|
|Huddersfield 38 - 16 Catalan Dragons|
|Bradford 16 - 8 Wigan|
|Warrington 26 - 40 Wakefield|
|Saturday 26th July|
|London Broncos 10 - 62 Hull K R|
|Friday 25th July|
|Salford 18 - 22 Leeds|
|St Helens 44 - 22 Widnes|
|Thursday 24th July|
|Hull 18 - 18 Castleford|
|Sunday 20th July|
|Hull K R 18 - 38 Salford|
|Huddersfield 52 - 26 Bradford|
|Saturday 19th July|
|Catalan Dragons 40 - 6 Wakefield|
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