IT is a match that has turned into a key fixture for both sides.

Will Warrington Wolves secure a third straight win to all but secure a play-off spot? Or will Salford Red Devils reel them in and set up a tense finish to the regular season?

Our Wire reporter Matt Turner assesses five key talking points ahead of the crunch Round 25 clash...

Warrington Guardian:

Can Wire release the pressure valve?

Of all the games in Warrington’s “run-in” to the end of the regular season, this has emerged as the most important.

Along with Hull KR, Salford have emerged as Wire’s biggest rivals for the two final play-off spots. Wigan, Catalans and St Helens have all secured their spot, with Leigh all but confirmed to be in the mix.

And yet, the equation for Gary Chambers side is a simple one – just win.

Do that and it releases the pressure on the final two games – the hosting of Saints and the trip to Huddersfield. It may even secure their spot altogether (more on that later).

However, a defeat throws the whole thing wide open once again.

Warrington Guardian: Wire go into the game having thrashed Castleford Tigers 66-12 last time outWire go into the game having thrashed Castleford Tigers 66-12 last time out (Image: Mike Boden)

A time that suits both sides?

With this game being the last of the Round 25 fixtures to be played, the timing certainly plays into the hands of both sides.

Having had the benefit of seeing what their rivals have already done, both Wire and Salford will take the field on Sunday knowing exactly where they stand and what they need to do.

Defeats for Hull KR, who travel to Huddersfield on Friday, and Leeds, who host Wigan on Saturday, would mean Warrington would secure a play-off spot with a victory at the AJ Bell.

Salford’s need for a win is already paramount given they find themselves on the wrong side of the dotted line at present, but they will want to go into what is a crunch clash for them against Hull KR in Round 26 still very much alive.

Warrington Guardian: The game was moved from Friday night to Sunday lunchtime to be shown live on Channel FourThe game was moved from Friday night to Sunday lunchtime to be shown live on Channel Four (Image:

A test of new-found defensive resolve

Considering how things have been without the ball for Wire over the past few months, the last two games have to be seen as a step forward.

The last 160 minutes of rugby league have seen them concede just 16 points – a marked improvement having only kept the opposition below 20 points once in the 11 matches that preceded the win at Hull.

Richard Marshall came onto the first-team staff in pre-season with a brief for improving the defence. The initial results were promising before things fell off a cliff during the summer months.

Marshall is still in charge of the defensive side of things, so has there been a change in approach? Or simply one in mindset?

Either way, they will surely be tested on Sunday against a Salford side known for their free-flowing, attacking style.

Warrington Guardian: Wire have conceded just 16 points in the past two gamesWire have conceded just 16 points in the past two games (Image: Mike Boden)

Window of opportunity for Wrench?

While no injuries of major significance were reported by Gary Chambers following Saturday’s win over Castleford Tigers, he did highlight a couple of potential concerns in the outside backs.

Peter Mata’utia came off the field in the closing minutes in what the interim head coach described as a precautionary measure, while a pain-killing injection in a rib injury allowed Josh Thewlis to complete the game.

If one of them does not pull through, could it represent an opportunity for Connor Wrench to stake a claim for more first-team involvement?

Chambers gave an in-depth explanation as to why the youngster is not currently featuring in his team last week, but it does not appear to have appeased the clamour of many fans for him to be a more prominent figure.

There is adamance from within the club that Wrench remains a big part of their future plans, but he will no doubt be desperate for the chance to impress sooner rather than later.

Warrington Guardian: Connor Wrench has not featured in the past three gamesConnor Wrench has not featured in the past three games (Image: Mike Boden)

Clash of two exciting spines

The link-up between George Williams and Matt Dufty looks to have peaked in recent weeks, with the understanding they have shown lately close to telepathic at times.

When those two along with Josh Drinkwater, Danny Walker and Daryl Clark are all on song, it makes for an incredibly dangerous spine.

On the other side of the field, Salford’s own creative quartet may not have fired to the same devastating effect as last year but is still one to be respected.

Reigning Man of Steel Brodie Croft, his half-back partner Marc Sneyd, full-back Ryan Brierley and hooker Andy Ackers – a Warrington Wolves academy graduate – have an enduring partnership that remains capable of producing some sparkling stuff.

Warrington Guardian: Reigning Man of Steel Brodie Croft remains one of Salford's key threatsReigning Man of Steel Brodie Croft remains one of Salford's key threats (Image: