ESSENDON will back itself to blunt 'Buddy' this week as the Bombers chase down Sydney with their finals hopes on the line.
The Bombers' lacklustre loss to Greater Western Sydney last weekend sent them out of the top eight and they face the rampaging Swans at Metricon Stadium on Saturday night.
Lance Franklin looms large for the Bombers, with the champion Swans forward overturning his one-match ban for striking to be clear to face Essendon, the club he has kicked more goals against than any other in his illustrious career (73 goals from 17 games).
Coach Ben Rutten, who says his team isn't feeling the pinch of a season largely spent on the road, joked there had been some short-lived relief when the Match Review Officer banned Franklin for a week but with the superstar Swan now cleared to play, Rutten backed his defenders to restrict him.
LADDER PREDICTOR Where will your club finish?
"I slept a bit better for maybe one night," Rutten said on Thursday.
"But no, we want to see our good players playing and Buddy is one of those but we're also well aware that the Swans are much more than a Buddy Franklin team.
"They've got some really good depth across their whole field. Buddy gets the reward of that and he's been in some pretty good form but I think the way Jayden Laverde has been playing with James Stewart and Jordan Ridley, the mix of those three guys and the way they've been defending throughout the course of the season has been really pleasing.
"I'm sure they're going to be looking forward to playing against another dynamic forward line group in Sydney and Buddy will be one player in that but we're not going to put all our preparation into him."
Franklin kicked three goals and was crucial late in the Swans' three-point win over the Bombers in round four.
Midfielder Kyle Langford is expected to be available after missing the past two weeks with a hamstring strain, while the Bombers are eyeing next week for Jye Caldwell to play at VFL level after his serious hamstring issues from earlier in the year.
The Bombers sit ninth on the ladder but their next two weeks – against the Swans and then Western Bulldogs – will shape their finals hopes.
They will also be keen to get Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti firing, with the electric small forward in a slump that has seen him kick five goals in the past seven games and pick up five disposals and no goals the past two weeks.
Rutten said the exciting match-winner had been sore but is ready to recapture his top form.
"There's no doubt the last few weeks he's been probably a little bit below his best but we're really confident he'll be able to get back there really quickly. He has copped a few knocks and bumps over the last few weeks which will probably take some toll but he's fit and ready to go and we're really looking forward to it," Rutten said.
"I know he's keen to get back to some of his best form. The last few weeks there's been some really good opportunities that he's created that he maybe hasn't quite finished in front of goal and that's been not only him but across the board.
"We're really keen and confident that Tony will be back at his best."