CHAMPION Melbourne ruckman Max Gawn will miss a third straight match this weekend, but coach Simon Goodwin has all but guaranteed he will face St Kilda next week.
The Demons opted to give their captain more time to recover from his posterior cruciate ligament setback and will again turn to Braydon Preuss to lead the ruck against the Western Bulldogs.
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Preuss had his own mid-week injury concern, leaving Wednesday's training session early with hip soreness, but Goodwin declared him a certain starter.
"Max has progressed really strongly, but he won't play. He was very, very close, but we just didn't want to put it at risk," Goodwin said of Gawn.
"He's an important player we need to get right and make sure that PCL is healed properly – and another seven days will allow us to do that.
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"His movement is really strong, but he's just got to tick off a couple more things next week to be 100 per cent ready to go … there's no doubt for next week."
Saturday's match-up at Metricon Stadium pits two of the AFL's strongest onball units against one another.
The Dogs are arguably deeper with Marcus Bontempelli, Jack Macrae, Bailey Smith, Josh Dunkley and Tom Liberatore, but Christian Petracca, Clayton Oliver, Jack Viney, Angus Brayshaw and Tom Sparrow stack up well for Melbourne.
Bulldog Lachie Hunter and Demon Ed Langdon will have important respective roles on the wing as well.
"It's a great challenge. We wanted to create a midfield where we had a lot of depth and a lot of guys who can go through (there) – and the Bulldogs are no different," Goodwin said.
"They've got high-quality players in there and obviously the addition of Hunter and Dunkley back into that mix in the last few weeks makes them quite a formidable opponent.
"We're in good form ourselves, but that's in the past and what we are really looking at now is this weekend's game against them and it's going to be a great duel in there."
Steven May will start on Bulldogs' forward Aaron Naughton, but fellow defender Neville Jetta, who designed the club's Indigenous jumper, hasn't received a call-up for Sir Doug Nicholls Round.