ESSENDON has won four of its past five games, but the club is hardly flying. Apart from its 50-point belting of Richmond, the other three victories have come against the Western Bulldogs, Brisbane Lions and Greater Western Sydney by a collective 31 points. Their struggles against lower-placed teams means the Demons should enter this clash with some confidence. Melbourne had beaten the Bombers three consecutive times before their 148-point loss last year, and will be aiming to strangle Mark Thompson's men, who will be without captain Jobe Watson after hip surgery on a torn tendon.

WHERE AND WHEN: MCG, Sunday June 15, 4.40pm (AEST)

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R2, 2013, Essendon 28.16 (184) d Melbourne 5.6 (36) at MCG
R10, 2012, Melbourne 8.10 (58) d Essendon 6.16 (52) at MCG
R11, 2011, Melbourne 15.11 (101) d Essendon 10.8 (68) at MCG
R15, 2010, Melbourne 19.8 (122) d Essendon 14.19 (103) at MCG
R12, 2009, Essendon 19.17 (131) d Melbourne 13.5 (83) at Etihad Stadium

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1. Essendon will miss its injured captain, but have been reasonable in stints without him in recent times. In three games last year without Watson, the Bombers won two games. In 2011, the Bombers were without Watson for six games and won three.

2. Have the Demons become too defensive? In 2014 they have averaged just 80 points against (it was 122 points in 2013), but have scored on average just 61 points a game.

3. Essendon's 148-point thrashing of Melbourne last year was the Bombers' biggest ever win over Melbourne and the club's biggest win at the MCG.

4. Under Mark Thompson the Bombers have kicked and marked more than any side in the competition. They average 234 kicks and 119 marks a game.

5. Bernie Vince has been a terrific addition to the Melbourne line-up. The former Crows midfielder has averaged almost 24 disposals a game and added important maturity and class to the midfield mix.

6. It hasn't taken crafty Bombers midfielder Zach Merrett to make an impact. Official AFL Player Ratings ranks Merrett as the ninth-best first-year player in the league.

Prediction: Essendon by 8 points