COLLINGWOOD'S best defensive midfielder Brent Macaffer is certain to play on the game's best attacking mid Gary Ablett when the Magpies meet Gold Coast on Saturday at Metricon Stadium.
Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley answered the obvious question in a direct manner when he was asked on Tuesday.
"I dare say that if you could try to affect some of his [Ablett's] possessions you are probably going to be better off," Buckley said.
"He would be our No.1 target."
After Collingwood's seven-point loss to Gold Coast last season, Buckley admitted he had erred in not tagging Ablett who picked up 49 touches, kicked two goals and earned three Brownlow Medal votes.
He rationalised the decision based on the fact Ablett had managed 53 touches and three Brownlow votes a year earlier, yet Collingwood won by 97 points.
However there will be no second-guessing this time, even though Gold Coast's spread of dangerous talent goes much deeper and Ablett gathered 45 touches in the wet last Saturday in the Suns’ 53-point loss to Hawthorn.
"My belief is that Gary Ablett junior is the best player in the competition. I think that is a pretty widely held belief. So when you have the best player in the competition he stands out as a tag target or as someone that you are mindful of stopping," Buckley said.
Buckley admitted the decision to send Macaffer to Ablett was not obvious any more, with David Swallow, Harley Bennell, Jarrod Harbrow, Trent McKenzie, Dion Prestia, Michael Rischitelli and Jaeger O'Meara all capable of inflicting serious damage.
Ablett has averaged 32 disposals a game in 2014 with O'Meara, Swallow and Prestia all averaging more than 20 disposals a match.
"They have got weapons all over the field, so, no, Ablett is not the only one that we look at,” Buckley said.
“He is one that we consider but he is just one of their mix who has troubled a lot of sides and will continue to trouble a lot of sides, so it is not going to be just that match-up that is going to be important for us.
“It's how we handle our team footy versus the Suns' team football and we need to do that better than they do to get the result."
Buckley said Jamie Elliott was unlikely to play after suffering hamstring tightness. The team's leading goalkicker will be a tough player to replace but the coach thinks the team can find options from many avenues.
Whether Nick Maxwell returns via the VFL or in the senior side remains a question to be considered at selection.
A full house is expected at Metricon Stadium for the game between the two top eight teams.
Gold Coast has only lost to the Sydney Swans and Hawthorn at Metricon Stadium this season as it develops a strong home ground advantage.
After losing its first 17 games at the venue, Gold Coast has won 13 of the past 20 and defeated Collingwood at Metricon Stadium in 2013. Its 28 per cent win-loss record since it entered the AFL lifts to 35 per cent at home.
"We're under no illusions about the quality of the side we are facing. We know that they love their home ground and that they play it particularly well," Buckley said.