NO LATE CHANGES
Brisbane: Ryan Lester
Western Bulldogs: Jason Johannisen
LIONS v DOGS Follow it live
This looms as a mouthwatering match-up of two high-scoring teams with the Western Bulldogs regaining form in Sunday's elimination final win over Essendon and now heading to Brisbane's Gabba fortress to confront a wounded Lions. Chris Fagan's team is missing crucial forward Dan McStay and have selected key defender Jack Payne to come in. Both midfields are stacked with talent, and this is where the match should be won though. Marcus Bontempelli, Jack Macrae, Tom Liberatore and company up against Lachie Neale, Jarryd Lyons and Dayne Zorko will be riveting viewing.
Where and when: Gabba, Saturday September 4, 7.20pm AEST
The teams: Latest selections here
WHAT HAPPENED THIS YEAR?
Tim English led the Dogs' three-pronged forward line at windy Ballarat, kicking three goals in a comfortable win. They led by 26 points at half-time and despite Brisbane hanging in, were never really threatened. Aaron Naughton added two goals as the Bulldogs' height worried the Lions' defence, while Adam Treloar (29 disposals) was the best midfielder on the ground.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
How the Lions cover for the loss of McStay will be fascinating. They're 14-4 with him in the team this year and missed his bash-and-crash link play against the Demons. With Eric Hipwood already missing there is no obvious like-for-like replacement. Payne has come into the side, but he is a defender so a reshuffle is on the cards. A lot will be expected of Joe Daniher after he went goalless for the first time in 2021 last week.
After three poor weeks to finish the home and away season, the midfield got to work against the Bombers, dominating clearances and contested possessions to provide the forward line with quality looks. It's a blueprint that served the Bulldogs well for 20 weeks, and more of the same against the Lions will take them a long way towards victory.
THE STATS THAT MATTER
Over the past three home and away seasons the Lions have a win-loss record of 28-2 at the Gabba. In the finals, that record is just 1-3. Watch for the Lions' scoring power as well. When they've scored more than 90 points in 2021, they're 13-1 (and that one loss came in the opening round to Sydney), but less than 90 it's 2-7.
Winning the ball at the source is crucial for the Bulldogs. When they've won the clearance count their record is 13-4 (and one of those losses was after the siren against Geelong). When they lose the clearances? An even split of three wins and three losses. As extension of that is clearance king Tom Liberatore and his influence. When he has 25 disposals or more the Dogs are 11-2. When he dips under that, 4-5.
IT'S A BIG WEEK FOR…
Lions full-back Harris Andrews played one of his worst games of the season against Melbourne and faces another huge challenge against Aaron Naughton. With some sore bodies around him, Brisbane needs Andrews back near his best to silence the Bulldogs' talls.
Whoever ends up defending Charlie Cameron, possibly Taylor Duryea. Cameron kicked five goals against Melbourne last week and again looms as the Lions' danger man. Former skipper Easton Wood might also slide across to spend some time on the slippery forward.
Brisbane by eight points. You could honestly toss a coin over this, but the Lions are a different team at the Gabba and will lift on last week's effort in front of their home crowd.