The squads are in and - a week later than expected - a well-rested Giants side are set to play their first Super League game of 2020 in the UK, as the Cowbell Army celebrate Valentine's Day at the AJ Bell Stadium.
We visited Ian Watson's side twice last year in their route to the Grand-Final and the two sides shared the spoils. We won our first visit by 18 points, not least thanks to a spectacular debut for Oliver Wilson. We returned less than a month later and despite taking a lead early on, a few unfortunate head-knocks saw us down to a one-man bench, and after a while the pressure overcame us, allowing Salford to take a 20-point lead.
But with both line-ups looking very different just 5 months on, head-to-head form counts for little, and both sides will be looking to get their second win of the season, hopefully under better weather conditions than we've seen this week
I would expect to see a very similar side to the one that was victorious in Perpignan, with a straight swap of Wardle for Turner. This would leave Holmes, Russell, Innes and Walne out. Of those, Adam Walne has to be the most likely to break into the squad, but it's unclear at whose expense it will be.
If we're to get the win, our key man will be Darnell McIntosh. In the opening two rounds, Salford missed more tackles than anyone (this is, of course, thrown off a little by Leeds not playing last week, who comfortably have the worst per-game record so far). So, we need someone who can exploit that and bust a few tackles.
Darnell broke more tackles than anyone else for us last year and, at fullback, will likely be returning plenty of kicks on Friday night. They'll be tricky kicks in even trickier weather, but if he can keep the errors to a minimum and make us those crucial extra metres at the start of our sets, it will give our forwards a huge boost and allow the rest of the spine to do their thing.
There's just one change from the 21-man squad that sealed a late victory over Toronto last week, as on-loan giant Sebastine Ikahihifo is replaced by Mark Flanagan. Seb was named on the bench last week, so I would expect so see Flanagan slot in there.
While many of the key players from Salford's surprisingly successful 2019 run have moved on, it would be naïve to think they'll be pushovers without the likes of Hastings and Jones. Joey Lussick was a huge part of Salford's spine last year, Tui Lolohea seems to be playing his best rugby at the reds after a disappointing spell at Leeds, and Greenwood and Dudson racked up a combined 150 tackles in their first two games of the year.
But should things go well for the Red Devils, their key man will be Darnell's opposite number, Niall Evalds. His pace and footwork make him a nightmare for defences apart, and with the Giants' first-choice fullback on the sidelines, he'll know exactly what he needs to do to get his teammates over the line
Where the game will be won
While I think the fullbacks will be the key men for both sides, I still think the power of the pack will be a crucial factor. Plenty of Salford's forwards were underestimated last year, and while I think they'll certainly be up for the battle, that bench of Gavet, Edwards, Clough and Ta'ai is one of the most brutal you're likely to see in the league this year. I think we'll see a close battle early on, turned on its head when these four take to the field, leading the Giants to that all important two points