SEPTEMBER may still be several weeks away, but Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge admits his side's three remaining games all feel like elimination finals.
FULL FIXTURE Every round, every game
Sitting a win and 13 per cent out of the top eight, the Bulldogs must defeat Essendon on Saturday night to keep their slim finals hopes alive.
Beveridge believes the raft of injuries affecting the Bombers makes them a tougher proposition to plan for.
Last week's loss to the Lions has Luke Beveridge's side walking the finals tightrope. Picture: AFL Photos
"We're expecting them (Essendon) to come out with similar vigour to what we faced last week (against Brisbane)," Beveridge said.
"Essendon are above us at the moment and yes, they've got some injuries, but there can be some real strength in that.
"It forces you to play different ways and with different personnel."
The Western Bulldogs have not lost to Essendon under Beveridge's tenure, with a 5-0 record dating back to 2014.
Midfielder Tom Liberatore and defender Caleb Daniel will miss this week's match through injury, with both pulling up sore from last week's loss to the Lions.
FULL INJURY LIST Who's ruled out and who's a test?
Beveridge said the medical staff would have a discussion on whether more surgery on Liberatore's right knee would be required post-season.
"Obviously he's had some surgery over the years and we've got to keep playing the long game to a degree with Tom," Beveridge said.
"Every week is important, but we just felt like giving him a week off will freshen him up a little bit."
We've got to keep playing the long game to a degree with Tom - Luke Beveridge
Daniel's season could be over, with scans revealing he reaggravated the left hamstring he hurt in round 15 this season.
"It's just unfortunate that Caleb's going through this turmoil with this soft tissue, it's unusual for him," Beveridge said.
"He felt he lacked a little power … and the scans show he needs to miss some weeks."