Friday, 20 July 2012

Crucial weekend ahead in the AFL

As the AFL regular season slowly draws towards its conclusion, this weekend is looming as perhaps the most crucial in the 23-week season. The season has been eventful throughout, with numerous teams still in contention both for the top 4, and the top 8. However with a number of tantalising clashes this week, we should finally give get a real insight into where teams will finish this season, so let’s look at some of the crucial encounters.

Geelong vs Essendon, Friday 7:50, Etihad Stadium

Before the start of the season you’d have a hard time convincing people that the reigning Premiers might miss the finals this season, but a loss on Friday will leave their hopes dangling by a thread, with an extremely tough run-in lying ahead. On the other hand, Essendon have been one of the surprise packets of the season, and although they have a difficult run-in themselves, will still be hopeful of a top 4 finish. I think the Bombers will be too strong for the Cats in the middle of the park, and will be able to run out comfortable winners on a ground they play well.

Bombers by 30

Collingwood vs Hawthorn, Saturday 1:45, MCG

The two Permiership favourites meet on Saturday afternoon in a real blockbuster at the home of football. Both teams have been in formidable form, with Collingwood winning 11 of their last 12 games, and Hawthorn winning 9 of their last 10. The Hawks won their previous encounter in the first round of the season, but for my money the Pies still remain the team to beat this season. Their key players are starting to look sharp, and their pressure on the opposition team is probably the best in the competition.

Pies by 15

Adelaide vs West Coast, Saturday 2:10, AAMI Stadium

Adelaide go into this match knowing that a win will not only set themselves up for a top 4 finish, but also put them in pole position for a top 2 finish & a home final. On the other hand, West Coast will feel that a top four spot that has looked theirs for so long will be starting to fall from their grasp if they can’t get the win in Adelaide. The Eagles are still missing a number of key players, but are welcoming three players back from injury, and I have a feeling they may may do something special to keep their top 4 hopes alive.

Eagles by 2

Sydney vs St Kilda, Sunday 1:10, SCG

At the start of the season I was one of those who doubted Sydney’s ability to take the next step up, but they’ve proved me & many others wrong, by performing consistently throughout the season and looking strong in every position. Sydney are a fiercely competitive team around the ball, and win the majority of their games by doing the little things right. They’re also a dangerous team from the middle, with their midfield contributing a large proportion of their goals. The Saints are a transformed side this year, but I think they’re struggle to get a grip on the game against a well drilled Sydney side, who will start well & won’t let up.

Swans by 20

Richmond vs North Melbourne, Sunday 3:15, MCG

The Kangaroos have been in scintillating form in recent weeks, winning their past 4 of their past 5 games, and only narrowly losing the other to the Eagles. On the other hand, Richmond appear to be stumbling just when their first finals spot since 2001. However the loss of Jack Ziebell to suspension for the Roos, and the return of Dustin Martin for the Tigers, might just swing things in Richmond’s way. I think it’ll be a close game all afternoon, but wouldn’t be surprised to see the Tigers claim the spoils and banish their demons from last week’s shock lost to the Suns.

Tigers by 8