How things have changed since round two. Back then, the Bombers' spirits were soaring after their players escaped sanction from the AFL Anti-Doping Tribunal, culminating in an emotion-charged last-gasp win over the Hawks. Some pundits were talking top-four for the Dons following that triumph, but they now find themselves mired in 13th spot on the ladder and struggling to kick a competitive score, while WADA has appealed the anti-doping tribunal's verdict. On the other hand, the Hawks are building ominously on the back of three straight wins, with a fit list, outstanding percentage and only four points separating them from fourth spot.
WHERE AND WHEN: MCG, Saturday, June 27, 1.40pm AEST
TV AND RADIO: Click here for broadcast guide
LAST FIVE TIMES
R2, 2015, Essendon 12.6 (78) d Hawthorn 11.10 (76) at the MCG
R2, 2014, Hawthorn 13.12 (90) d Essendon 12.14 (86) at Etihad Stadium
R18, 2013, Hawthorn 22.11 (143) d Essendon 13.9 (87) at Etihad Stadium
R18, 2012, Hawthorn 27.18 (180) d Essendon 12.14 (86) at Etihad Stadium
R14, 2011, Hawthorn 23.8 (146) d Essendon 12.9 (81) at the MCG
THE SIX POINTS
1. Essendon dominated disposals (435-376) and marks (114-84) in a two-point upset of the Hawks in round two, although Hawthorn had more inside 50s (58-52).
2. The Hawks are equal first for quarters won this season with 33 - including eight final quarters - while the Bombers have struggled, winning only 18 quarters and three fourth quarters.
3. It will be a battle of two of the most prolific possession-winning teams in 2015; the Hawks are ranked first, averaging 396.7 disposals per game, while the Bombers are third, with 381 per game.
4. This will be the 26th time the Hawks and Bombers have met at the MCG, with 15 wins to 11 in the Bombers' favour.
5. One advantage for Essendon might be rebounds from 50; ranked fifth compared to the 17th-ranked Hawks.
6. With only 11 goals in 10 games this season, Essendon key forward Jake Carlisle has plummeted outside the top 200 of the Official AFL Player Ratings, dropping 73 spots to No.225 since the start of the year.
IT'S A BIG WEEK FOR …
James Hird. The Bombers coach's tactical nous has come under fire, with his side only managing 21 goals over the past three games. The Dons' season is on the brink of disaster and Hird desperately needs his team to manufacture more majors if they are to upset the Hawks again.
PREDICTION: Hawthorn by 32 points