ALMOST three full years to the day since Caleb Marchbank last played at AFL level, Carlton's talented intercept defender will finally make his long-awaited return in Friday night's blockbuster clash with Essendon.

The Blues announced on Tuesday night that Marchbank would finally make his senior comeback, helping to ease the key defensive burden following Jacob Weitering's long-term shoulder injury.

Marchbank last played for Carlton on July 7, 2019, having then suffered a fractured vertebrae in his neck against Melbourne that would rule him out for the remainder of the campaign.

Carlton defender Caleb Marchbank in action against Gold Coast in round four, 2019. Picture: AFL Photos

He then sustained bone bruising to his knee and persistent calf injuries that kept him sidelined for the entirety of the 2020 season, before rupturing his ACL in April 2021 while making his return through the VFL.

Even after another diligent 12 months of rehab, Marchbank copped a knock to his 'good' knee in the VFL recently that kept him sidelined for the last fortnight. However, he will now be rushed back into the Blues' senior side for this week's clash with the Bombers.

Marchbank has been named to return after it was announced that Weitering would miss the next six weeks with a shoulder injury, joining fellow defensive options Oscar McDonald (back), Mitch McGovern (hamstring) and Luke Parks (foot) on the sidelines.

Caleb Marchbank during Carlton's training session at Ikon Park on December 6, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

Carlton recruited former North Melbourne first-round pick Sam Durdin in last week's NAB AFL Mid-Season Rookie Draft as key defensive cover, while youngster Brodie Kemp is another option to partner Marchbank and Lewis Young.

Marchbank was initially drafted to Greater Western Sydney with pick No.7 in 2014 and was traded to Carlton two seasons later. But injuries have kept the 25-year-old to just 41 appearances in six seasons with the Blues.