Geelong v Essendon

Picture: Stephen Harman/adelaidenow.com.au
Essendon beat Geelong by 4 points in Round 15 last year. Picture: Stephen Harman/adelaidenow.com.au
Geelong  locks horns with Essendon  at Etihad Stadium on Friday night looking to retain their position in the top eight. Last week’s 31 point defeat to Collingwood leaves the Cats precariously placed in the top eight, and with games against Adelaide, Hawthorn and West Coast set to follow this clash this is one that they really must win. Jimmy Bartel is still suspended, while key forward James Podsiadly and speedster David Wojcinski remain sidelined with leg injuries and will also miss the match.

There is better news for the Bombers on that front, with Angus Monfries and Stewart Crameri set to return from injury and suspension respectively. Getting Crameri back is particularly good news for Essendon with Michael Hurley, David Zaharakis and Paddy Ryder all out of action. Last week’s 127-77 win over Port Adelaide ensured that they remain firmly entrenched in the top eight, but a tough draw that sees them face three of the AFL’s top four before the end of the season means that this fixture could be crucial to their chances of playing finals football.

Where It Will be Won – Jobe Watson  has had a stellar season so far and is widely expected to win this year Brownlow medal. There are few players in the competition that can match his contribution in the middle of the ground but Geelong skipper Joel Selwood is one of them. In a team that has failed to reach the heights of recent seasons, Selwood has been a shining light. Their battle at the stoppages will be one to savour.

Prediction – Only one position separates these sides on the ladder and there wasn’t much between them when they last played, with Essendon registering a four point win at this ground in round fifteen last year. Both teams face a tough run into the finals and will want to cement their spot in the eight here. With more big game experience in the ranks, the reigning premiers could shock the Bombers. Geelong 1-39

Click here to bet on AFL Round 17 matches