There is another Friday night blockbuster to look forward to when Melbourne take on Collingwood in the opening clash of round 21 at the MCG.
There have been some big Friday night games over the last few weeks, but none bigger than the Demons against the Pies under the lights at the G.
We are closing in on finals with just three weeks of the home and away season remaining and there is plenty at stake when these two sides clash.
The two sides are locked on 56 points after 19 games and only a better percentage has the Demons sitting in second with the Pies one spot below.
But it is Collingwood who have come from nowhere with a 10-game winning streak and if they can make it 11 they really will be dreaming of winning the flag in 2022.
Geelong are four points clear at the top of the ladder, but whoever wins on Friday night will put some real pressure on the Cats ahead of their game with St Kilda on Saturday.
Both teams also have Sydney and Brisbane breathing down their necks with a place in the top four up for grabs.
It does not get much bigger for an opening game to round 21 so let’s take a closer look at both teams heading into the game.
What: Melbourne v Collingwood
Where: MCG, Melbourne
When: 19:50 (AEST) Friday 5th August 2022
How to watch: 7mate, Kayo, Foxtel
Odds: Melbourne 19/50, Collingwood 21/10
Melbourne have been hit and miss in recent weeks when losing to both Geelong and the Western Bulldogs, leading some to put a question mark next to their premiership credentials.
They hit form in round 17 in 2021 and did not lose a game as they went on to win the flag, so it is no surprise that after two defeats their form has been questioned.
However they picked up a big win against Fremantle in the west last week and if they can back it up with another against Collingwood on Friday night then the doubters will be silenced.
They will have to do better than the last time the two sides met though. That was back in June and was the start of Melbourne’s poor run as they slipped to a 26-point defeat against the Pies.
Simon Goodwin’s men have settled the ship a little since then but this latest clash will be another big test and one they need to pass.
The Demons have been handed a huge double boost heading into the game with the news that star forward Ben Brown and fellow premiership teammate James Harmes are set to return.
Brown has been nursing one or two niggles and Melbourne have opted to leave him out in the last couple of weeks to ensure he is fully recovered and ready for the run-in.
"He gives us a real focal point, he's a really smart player, he's a goalkicker and he maximises his opportunities,” Goodwin said ahead of the game.
Harmes has been missing with concussion but has now been given the green light to return.
Along with Geelong, Collingwood are the form team in the AFL right now after winning the last 10 games on the bounce.
Momentum is crucial at this time of year and they will be keen to keep the good run going into finals. Finishing in the top two would be key to their chances of going all the way and winning the premiership.
It is a tough run-in to the end of the home and away season with games against Sydney and Carlton to come but the Pies will be full of confidence.
Collingwood have also been handed a big boost with the news that Brody Mihocek and Jeremy Howe will return to the fold.
Key forward Mihocek missed last week’s win over Port Adelaide with hip soreness but has passed a fitness test and will return.
Howe has been struggling with a corked buttock but coach Craig McRae has confirmed that both he and Mihocek are good to go.
However it is not all good news as star ruckman Brodie Grundy remains on the sidelines with an ankle injury, while Taylor Adams will miss the rest of the home and away season with a groin injury and faces a race to make finals.
"I think he's going to need all that time to be right again. I'm not sure how quick he heals, but we'll put a plan in place for him to play that first week of the finals,” McRae said of Adams.