OVERWHELMING underdogs, but with nothing to fear.
It's an unusual position for Collingwood to be in ahead of its preliminary final against Richmond on Friday night, but one Nathan Buckley's side will relish.
Collingwood was victim No.12 and No.18 in Richmond's lengthy unbroken MCG winning streak, losing both clashes against the reigning premiers so far this season.
PLAYER RATINGS: Who has more top 100 players, Tiges or Pies?
But while the 43- and 28-point margins might appear like comfortable victories for the Tigers, they were anything but. That, in itself, would fill the Pies with confidence.
On both occasions, Collingwood was in the contest with around 30 minutes remaining. On both occasions, Buckley's team also lost crucial players to in-game injuries.
CHECK OUT THE MEGA-PREVIEW: Richmond v Collingwood
Back in round six, Collingwood led as late as the 23-minute mark of the third quarter. But with James Aish (knee) and Ben Reid (Achilles) failing to finish the match – and with Brayden Maynard (ankle) also hobbled – the Magpies simply ran out of gas.
Richmond would kick eight of 11 goals in the final quarter to run away comfortable winners.
A similar situation unfolded in round 19. Although the Pies didn't lead after quarter-time, they were within four points at the final change having lost a host of key personnel.
Jeremy Howe (concussion) left the game in the first quarter, while Matt Scharenberg (knee) also didn't finish the match and Brody Mihocek (ankle) was hampered throughout.
The Tigers kicked five goals to one in the final quarter to again sprint clear of the Pies.
On that particular Saturday afternoon, in front of 88,180 at the MCG, Collingwood's lack of legs was clear. The Pies used just 71 rotations, compared to their opposition's 86.
Buckley was already without key figures in each line going into the match.
Jordan De Goey didn't play due to a leg injury, Adam Treloar was still sidelined with his hamstring issues and Tyson Goldsack was recovering from a long-term knee injury.
Star forward Jordan De Goey missed the round 19 meeting with Richmond. Picture: AFL Photos
James Aish and Brayden Sier, who have both established themselves as important role players at Collingwood, were also absent the last time these two sides met back in July.
However, all five are fit again. And while Darcy Moore and Scharenberg have been taken out of that round 19 team, the Pies are undoubtedly in a stronger position now.
Richmond, as it has over the last 18 months, has been largely unaffected by injury.
Jacob Townsend (leg) is likely to be the only enforced change from its round 19 team that defeated Collingwood, with Brandon Ellis and Liam Baker both omitted since.
However, the Tigers would be comfortable with their pressure-based system's success against the Pies, having rushed their opponents in the two meetings between the sides.
Although Collingwood convincingly won the clearance count during both of their encounters this season, Richmond was able to control the game more effectively the other way.
Where the Pies won the clearances by 12 in round six, they had 16 fewer inside 50s. A similar story unfolded in round 19, where Buckley's side had 11 more clearances but 10 fewer entries. That has resulted in Hardwick's men getting more and easier looks at goal.
Richmond had 13 more scoring shots the first time they played, and 10 more scoring shots at the second meeting, so the margins might have been greater.
In terms of individual match-ups, the likely battles are also intriguing.
While All Australian Brodie Grundy has been fantastic all year, Toby Nankervis got the better of their duel in round six. Nankervis had 29 disposals, 14 contested possessions and took 10 marks to become one of the few to get the better of Grundy this season.
Toby Nankervis beat Brodie Grundy - a rare feat this season - in round six. Picture: AFL Photos
Dustin Martin was well held by Levi Greenwood in round 19, kept to just 19 touches, but went forward to have a significant impact and kick three crucial goals. In Scharenberg's absence, the Pies might lack a natural defensive opponent for the Brownlow winner.
Then, up the other end, Alex Rance and Dylan Grimes appear the most likely opponents for De Goey, who was absent through injury during their last game.
Treloar, also unavailable for selection during their last meeting in round 19, had 42 disposals and a goal when the Magpies first faced the Tigers back in April.
Their return in time for Collingwood's finals campaign along with Goldsack – a potential opponent for Martin – is why the Pies can head into Friday's encounter full of confidence.