Expect a fired-up Sydney outfit on Friday night. Nobody expected what unfolded last Saturday, when Gold Coast came from 30 points down to defeat the Swans at the SCG by 24 points. It was the upset of the season, perhaps the decade and maybe the century, as the weakened Suns were without a group of their key players and were coming off an 11-game losing streak. It was a bad loss for the Swans as they fight for a finals spot with a tough run of games to come. Essendon remained in the hunt for a finals position with a strong victory over Fremantle at Etihad Stadium, stretching its run of form to include seven wins from its previous nine games. The Bombers were boosted by the return of key pair Orazio Fantasia (five goals) and David Zaharakis (26 disposals) for the clash after their injury issues and the duo were dynamic against the Dockers. A win for the Bombers this week would be huge in their bid for a top-eight place.
WHERE AND WHEN: Etihad Stadium, Friday, July 27, 7.50pm AEST
TV AND RADIO: Click here for broadcast guide
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
EF, 2017, Sydney 19.7 (121) d Essendon 8.8 (56) at the SCG
R14, 2017, Sydney 11.20 (86) d Essendon 12.13 (85) at the SCG
R7, 2016, Sydney 20.15 (135) d Essendon 7.12 (54) at the SCG
R1, 2015, Sydney 10.12 (72) d Essendon 9.6 (60) at ANZ Stadium
R19, 2014, Sydney 11.13 (79) d Essendon 8.9 (57) at the SCG
THE SIX POINTS
1. The last time these sides met was a non-contest. The elimination final last year was over by half-time, when Sydney led by 61 points. Essendon managed to keep the margin to 65 points by the final siren.
2. Sydney has dominated Essendon in recent years, winning its past eight matches against the Bombers. The Swans have beaten Essendon in 10 of the past 11 encounters.
3. This is a rare contest between the sides in Melbourne, the first since early in 2014.
4. Essendon will be without improved forward Shaun McKernan due to his hamstring injury and they'll miss his presence in attack. The Bombers are ranked third for marks inside 50 this season, compared to the 11th-ranked Swans in that area.
5. The Bombers haven't tended to enjoy the Friday night stage. They have won their past two games in the slot but had lost their previous 10 games on a Friday night. In contrast, Sydney has won eight of its past 11 Friday night games in Victoria.
6. Devon Smith started the season ranked the 175th best player in the competition according to the Schick AFL Player Ratings. But the Essendon recruit's form has been reflected in a rise up to No.108.
IT’S A BIG WEEK FOR …
Lance Franklin was held goalless last week for the first time this season. But he has a great record against the Bombers, having kicked 68 goals in 15 games against Essendon across his career. It's the most goals the champion forward has kicked against any club.
PREDICTION: Sydney by 19 points