WHERE AND WHEN: Melbourne Cricket Ground, Saturday July 2, 7.25pm (AEST)
RECENT HISTORY: Collingwood has won seven of their past 10 matches against Carlton.
FORM: Contests between these two sides are always fiercely fought regardless of where they’re sitting on the ladder, and you wouldn’t expect Saturday night’s clash to be any different. Carlton experienced a mid-season revival under new coach Brendon Bolton, winning four on the trot, but they have stumbled in recent times. Having won just twice in their past five outings, they will be keen to return to the winner’s list this weekend. After suffering three losses in a row from rounds 10 to 12, Collingwood bounced back with a solid win, albeit over a struggling Fremantle outfit, and will be desperate to establish some continuity in what has been a season marred by inconsistent performances.
KEY PLAYERS: Patrick Cripps (Carlton)
Cripps starred the last time these two sides met in round seven with 29 possessions, 25 of which were by hand. The 21-year-old’s ability to win the football in contested situations and effectively use it by hand to put his teammates in attacking positions was integral to the Blues’ success in the middle stages of the season. With skipper Marc Murphy still on the sidelines with an ankle injury, Cripps’ presence in the middle takes on even greater importance. In the round 10 clash against the Western Bulldogs, Levi Greenwood did a superb blanketing job on young gun Marcus Bontempelli, restricting him to just one clearance, well down on his season average of 4.31. Expect Greenwood to be given the task of tagging Cripps in what shapes as being a crucial match-up in determining the outcome of this contest.
Scott Pendlebury (Collingwood)
Pendlebury has been a thorn in the side of Carlton in recent times, averaging 34 disposals in his past three outings against the Blues. Like Cripps, Pendlebury is a master at winning the football in close and using it cleanly by hand or foot to set up scoring opportunities for his teammates. A poor tackling side in 2016 – ranked 15th in the League for tackles per game – the Blues lifted their rating in the previous meeting between these two sides, applying 73 tackles. They will need to replicate that effort if they’re going to prevent Pendlebury from exerting his influence on the contest.
OUTCOME: This match could easily go either way, but going against Carlton is the fact that they’re the worst contested possession team in the AFL, averaging 130.7 per game, while Collingwood is eighth with 144 per match. In the last-start win over the Dockers, Jack Crisp, Adam Treloar and Pendlebury were damaging in close, combining for 19 clearances. The Pies’ even spread of ball-winners should see them get over the line. Magpies by 17 points.