Essendon 0.0 (0) v Carlton 0.0 (0), MCG, 1.45pm
- Last night: Geelong d St Kilda by 42 points.
- Sam Mitchell is out of Hawthorn's team to play Gold Coast, replaced by Shane Savage.
- Nick Riewoldt has told SEN radio that "ideally for the club's development, I'm not captain next year".
- MCG car parks are closed after heavy rain in Melbourne
- Saint big man Rhys Stanley looks to have escaped broken ribs after a heavy clash in a marking contest last night.
The stakes could not be higher for these bitter rivals, with finals hopes on the line in their round 21 clash at the MCG.
Chloe Saltau reports that the Bombers are preparing for payback from the Blues, who they worked over physically and tactically in round four.
A contentious Sam Lonergan tackle cost Andrew Carazzo seven weeks on the sidelines that day, prompting teammate Marc Murphy to say he was "looking forward" to playing Essendon again. That day has arrived, and regardless of the decades-old rivalry and the angst from that clash three months ago, with finals places on the line, there ought to be plenty of fire in the opening exchanges this afternoon.
Carlton had belted Essendon at their previous two meetings, including a ten-goal humiliation in the 2011 Elimination Final. Coach Brett Ratten has told SEN radio how quickly players adapt to the heavy, slippery conditions will determine the outcome this afternoon, and his team must be direct and not overuse the ball.
Ratten says that both teams will expect heavy physical pressure early in this match.
"Who can sustain it and who is prepared to go the extra step," will determine the outcome, he says.
Carlton has used 31 players in the past month, and Ratten is hoping for more "continuity" of personnel from now on. He says that the Bombers did perform well around the packs in round four, but just as much an issue for the Blues was their ball use in the forward line, where they had four more inside 50s, but four fewer goals.
Carlton ($1.80) are narrow favourites today over Essendon ($2.00), which is understandable, given the resilience they have shown in the past six weeks. Simply put, their form has been better recently than that of Essendon. But Essendon is welcoming back vital players Ryder, Stanton and Zaharakis. The Bombers are back to near full strength, and the Blues are still missing key position stars, with Levi Casboult, Andrew McInnes and Simon White being asked to take on big roles.
With Chris Judd back, the Blues midfield is at full strength. If that division gets on top, Essendon will struggle. If they can again knock the elite Blues on-ballers out of kilter, another Bomber upset is on the cards.