WHERE AND WHEN: Marvel Stadium, Saturday August 3, 1.45pm (AEST)
HISTORY: The Bombers have claimed the points in the last three meetings between these two teams, with two of those wins coming at Marvel Stadium.
SUMMARY: Essendon have won five in succession and can all but secure a finals berth with a win over Port Adelaide. The Power, meanwhile, have lost their past three and can forget about featuring in September if they fail to get the job done in this one.
KEY PLAYERS: Zach Merrett (Essendon)
Merrett has been a key figure in Essendon’s five-game winning run, the classy 23-year-old averaging 27.6 possessions across that period. The Bombers young gun is Essendon’s best ball-user and will need to be nullified if Port Adelaide are to stifle an Essendon outfit that is capable of putting goals on the scoreboard in quick time when at the top of its game. Sam Powell-Pepper is renowned for his hard-nosed approach to the contest, having averaged 4.9 tackles per game in 2019, and could well be given the assignment of putting Merrett off his game with some physical pressure.
Charlie Dixon (Port Adelaide)
Dixon showed some positive signs in his most recent outing at the elite level, filling the stat sheet with 17 possessions, four marks and one goal in the round 18 loss to Richmond. Like the Power for the majority of this year, Dixon failed to stay in the game for the full four quarters against the Tigers. Port will need the powerful forward to make his presence felt across the entirety of this one if they’re to have any chance of kicking a winning score.
Jake Stringer (Essendon)
Stringer continued his renaissance with four goals in the 10-point win over Gold Coast last week to take his season tally to 29 majors. While the 25-year-old has been a force to be reckoned with in the attacking arc, coach John Worsfold would be most pleased by Stringer’s willingness to do the little things with the former Bulldog averaging a career-best 3.3 tackles per game. Stringer is arguably playing the most well-rounded football of his career and will need to be curtailed if Port Adelaide are to turn this contest into a genuine scrap. Expect Darcy Byrne-Jones – who has the capacity to match Stringer in the air and at ground level – to be given the massive task of negating the dynamic Bomber.
Travis Boak (Port Adelaide)
Port Adelaide may be maddeningly inconsistent, but Boak is anything but with the former Power co-captain racking up a mammoth 40 possessions in the last-start loss to Greater Western Sydney. That performance made it 13 times this season that Boak has gathered 30 or more disposals. Expect Dylan Clarke – who has claimed some high-profile scalps in 2019 – to put some time into Boak given his ability to win the football at the source and provide drive.
PREDICTION: Port Adelaide’s best is capable of accounting for Essendon, but you don’t know what you’re going to get from the Power from one quarter to the next. With more reliable performers, the Bombers should continue their winning ways. Bombers by 25 points.