CAN Brisbane defend Port Adelaide's small forwards, or will the quartet of Robbie Gray, Connor Rozee, Orazio Fantasia and Steven Motlop have their way on Saturday night?

How this question is answered could go a long way to determining which team takes the four premiership points in the Gabba blockbuster.

Let's put the "it will be won in the midfield" caveat to the side, because although that is true, if the men in the middle achieve parity, what happens forward of centre for Port promises to have a huge bearing on the match.

Gray, Rozee, Fantasia and Motlop have all started the season in fine form, and all have the speed and skill to hurt the Lions.

Connor Rozee celebrates a goal against Richmond in round four, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

Like most teams, Brisbane play a team/zone defence once the ball leaves the centre bounce and the 6-6-6 starting position is finished.

They are a cohesive unit that has defended desperately over recent years, even early this season when under a mountain of inside 50s against.

The Lions concede 53 inside 50s a match, three more than league average, and are ranked eighth for points conceded.

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Chris Fagan has preferred to play with a taller, stronger back seven for much of 2021, with Harris Andrews, Marcus Adams and Ryan Lester likely to man Charlie Dixon, Todd Marshall and Mitch Georgiades respectively.

Then the fun begins.

The loss of Darcy Gardiner to concussion is a major blow for the Lions, with the under-rated defender's ability to stifle quicker opponents sure to be missed.

However, the silver lining – if there is one – is it has forced a change that brings more leg speed alongside Grant Birchall, Daniel Rich and the team's No.1 small forward stopper Brandon Starcevich.

Brandon Starcevich and Daniel Rich against Carlton, round six 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

With Noah Answerth unavailable through a groin injury, Irish lightning James Madden will be unleashed for his debut.

Madden ran a blistering 2.69 seconds to set the AFL Combine record for the 20m sprint before he was drafted.

Brisbane needs every bit of speed and defensive nous against Port, who have scored the second most points in the competition and grabbed the fourth most marks inside 50.

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"It's a talented group of small forwards," Brisbane coach Chris Fagan said.

"You can't just rely on the ability of your defenders to get the job done on those guys one on one.

"It's trying to get territory ourselves, it's the way they're able to move the ball.

"If they can move it quickly, it'll bring those players into play, if they can't, it'll be a bit tougher for them.

"It's about the way their whole team defends."

Not only has Port's Awesome Foursome combined for 35 goals through the opening six weeks, but many of them have fond memories of the Gabba.

Rozee announced himself as an emerging superstar in just his third game in 2019, when he lit up the Lions for five goals. No-one could go with him that night.

Fantasia has also succeeded at Brisbane's home. Back in 2017 when he donned Essendon colours, the now 25-year-old kicked a bag of five goals and ripped away a possible win for the Lions.

And while Gray hasn't necessarily carved up Brisbane in his time split between midfield and forward, he still has 19 goals from 13 games against it and produced one of the great career highlights at the ground.

His after-the-siren goal against Carlton at the neutral venue in 2020 was among the best handful of game-winners in league history.

It all adds up to a fascinating battle and one that may help shape the result.