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Preview: Bombers v Blues

Always a big clash, this Dons-Blues contest is more mouth-watering than usual - ${keywords}
Always a big clash, this Dons-Blues contest is more mouth-watering than usual
Essendon enters this clash having lost three of its past four games, while Carlton has won six of its past seven games. But should we really be bothered talking about form? In the past it has mattered little with these sides. Carlton will fancy itself with its fleet of small, quick forwards, and this is likely to be a problem for the Bombers, particularly with defender Courtenay Dempsey set to miss the game. The Bombers should have it over the Blues in the key position stakes, however, meaning it's likely to come down to a midfield battle. 

WHERE AND WHEN: MCG, Friday June 7, 7.40pm

Rd 21, 2012, Carlton 24.12 (156) d Essendon 8.12 (60) at the MCG
Rd 4, 2012, Essendon 15.19 (109) d Carlton 11.13 (79) at the MCG
1EF, 2011, Carlton 21.23 (149) d Essendon 13.9 (87) at the MCG
Rd 18, 2011, Carlton 24.9 (153) d Essendon 12.7 (79) at the MCG
Rd 4, 2011, Carlton 11.13 (79) drew Essendon 11.13 (79) at the MCG

1. These clubs are hoping to play in finals footy this season, and Friday night will be a good dress rehearsal in front of a September-like crowd. In the past seven Friday night clashes between the sides the average attendance has been 64,183. 

2. Essendon will be aiming to stop and slow Carlton's run on Friday night. The Blues have had more bounces than any team in the competition, averaging 17 a game. Essendon is ranked 14th for bounces, preferring to chip kick its way to attack. 

3. Watch out Bombers if the Blues get a run on. The last four times Carlton has beaten the Bombers, the margins have been huge: 76, 74, 62 and 96 points. 

4. James Hird's side will be looking to make more from its inside-50 entries against the Blues. Essendon has had the most entries of any team but has not been able to capitalise with a largely dysfunctional forward line over the last month.

5. Heath Scotland will play his 200th game for the Blues, three weeks after playing his 250th career game. Scotland played 53 games for Collingwood before crossing to Carlton at the end of 2003. 

6. The midfield battle will be vital, particularly with Jobe Watson – ranked the fourth-best player in the Official AFL Player Ratings – possibly going head-to-head with Marc Murphy, ranked 12th overall. Chris Judd is next best for the Blues, ranked 15th, while Brent Stanton is the second-best Bomber according to the formula, coming in at No.40.
The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs