THE AVERAGE crowd for the past 10 clashes between Collingwood and Essendon is more than 76,000.

MAGPIES v BOMBERS Full match coverage and stats

On Friday night, the Pies and the Bombers will do battle in front of a tiny fraction of that traditionally huge turnout, but the interest from the faithful will be no less intense. 

01:22 Mins
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Match Preview: Collingwood v Essendon

Sportsbet's Nathan Brown and Matthew Richardson preview this blockbuster between old rivals at the MCG

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Collingwood's backline is set to be tested after losing Jeremy Howe to a serious knee injury last week.

01:56 Mins
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Under pressure: The Pie who must stand up without Howe

Neroli Meadows and Champion Data's Jacob Wilson preview the big Friday night matchup between the Bombers and Magpies

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Of course, this clash would normally be on Anzac Day, when the average crowd over the past 10 years has been a staggering 89,658 fans gathered on footy's biggest day of the home and away season. 

03:38 Mins
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SPECIAL: Lone bugler plays Last Post at empty MCG

The AFL and RSL combine to deliver the Anzac Ode and Last Post from the MCG

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The Pies will be smarting from their narrow loss to a resurgent Greater Western Sydney in round four, while the Bombers are burning after a painful one-point defeat at the hands of arch rival Carlton. 

Can Collingwood's backline adjust without Howe? And can the recalled Andrew Phillips blunt the impact of star Pie Brodie Grundy in the ruck? These questions, and more, will be answered from 7.50pm AEST tonight.