ESSENDON will regain Brendon Goddard for Saturday night's crucial clash against the Western Bulldogs at Etihad Stadium, with midfielder Heath Hocking and ruckman Tom Bellchambers also likely to return.
Goddard has been sidelined since suffering a groin injury during the warm-up before the round four game against Fremantle.
Hocking was subbed out of the game against St Kilda the following week with groin soreness and missed the Anzac Day loss to Collingwood, while Bellchambers is yet to play this season after needing ankle surgery during the summer.
"Goddard is fit, so he'll definitely play," Bombers coach Mark Thompson said prior to the club's training session on Wednesday morning.
"He's an on-ground leader. He senses the game and he can actually do something about it, so he's very good to have back.
"(Hocking) is going to train, so we'll have a look at him at training. If he's right, he'll play. If he's not, he won't."
As for Bellchambers, who has spent the past two weekends running around in the VFL, Thompson said: "He has (got confidence in his ankle). Whether we play him or not has got a whole lot of other reasons (to consider), too.
"Whether he can jump, how fit he is, how match-fit he is, what his timing's like. He'll probably train his way into the team or out of the team."
Forward Patrick Ambrose, who played in the VFL last weekend after shaking off a quad problem, is another player pushing for selection.
If Ambrose and Bellchambers are recalled, key position player Jake Carlisle is likely to find his position in jeopardy.
Carlisle has been in the spotlight in recent weeks, especially after his poor performance against St Kilda in round five.
Thompson said his effort in the loss to the Magpies was an improvement, but he did not guarantee that Carlisle would be selected to take on the Dogs.
Asked whether Carlisle might return to the backline if he does play, Thompson said: "We'll have to wait and see."
Following consecutive six-day breaks between games, Essendon will face the Bulldogs after an eight-day break.
"Our boys will be fresher, and we're going to do some real good training out here, which we really haven't done much of," Thompson said.
"We've trained, but we haven't really been able to get stuck into the nuts and bolts of how we play.
"That will be nice and I'm sure that we'll play better than we did in the last three weeks."
Thompson admitted his men had a "lot of things" to improve on after their fade-out against Collingwood.
"Our ball-movement, staying in the game, stopping them having big masses of goals in a short amount of time," he said.
"But they're things we can fix up pretty quick. Pretty confident."
Both the Bombers and Bulldogs will head into Saturday night's clash with 2-4 records, meaning the loser will face a very tough task to make the finals.
Adding spice to the contest will be the presence of Stewart Crameri, who quit Essendon and accepted a lucrative deal to join the Dogs during last year's player exchange period.
"I haven't thought about Stewy much," Thompson said. "This is the first time all year I've basically thought of him.
"So we'll try and stop him kicking goals, then we won't think about him much again after that."Twitter: @AFL_AdamMcNicol