The Western Bulldogs entertain St Kilda in a make-or-break clash on Friday night as the top-eight hopes of both sides will be on the line at Marvel Stadium.
It is a huge game for both sides and a great way to kick-off round 18 of the AFL campaign.
St Kilda sit in ninth spot, but are level on 36 points with eighth-placed Richmond, while the Bulldogs are one place and four points below them.
With the games fast running out every game is now crucial and the clash has to be seen as a must-win for the Bulldogs. Anything less and their chances of making the eight will look slim.
St Kilda’s hopes could also suffer a big setback if they slip to defeat and then other results go against them, so there is plenty at stake in this one.
So let’s take a closer look at both sides as they prepare to go head-to-head in the do-or-die clash.
What: Western Bulldogs v St Kilda
Where: Marvel Stadium, Melbourne
When: 19:50 (AEST), Friday 15th July 2022
How to watch: 7mate, Kayo, Foxtel
Odds: Western Bulldogs 14/25, St Kilda 29/20
The Bulldogs could see their finals hopes go up in flames over the next few rounds unless they can string together a solid run of results.
They may be only one win outside of the eight but they are in the middle of a tough run of fixtures and need to start picking up wins.
It has not started well for them. Luke Beveridge’s side have lost the last two games against the Brisbane Lions and Sydney Swans.
With games against Melbourne, Geelong and Fremantle to come, the game against St Kilda has to be viewed as a ‘must-win’ for the Bulldogs.
It will of course be easier said than done against a St Kilda side who are also desperate for the points and need to respond from a defeat to Fremantle last week.
The Bulldogs cause has not been helped by the fact young gun Bailey Smith has been missing for the last four games because of suspension.
However the midfielder is now back in the fold for the St Kilda clash and the Bulldogs could do with him being at his best from the get-go.
The Bulldogs midfield has been lacking spark in Smith’s absence. Beveridge has confirmed the youngster’s head is in the right place after a tough month or so and is backing him to shine on his return to the side.
Beveridge is also boosted by the news that Josh Bruce is in line to make his first appearance of the 2022 AFL season.
The key forward has been out of action with a serious knee injury but after getting some minutes in the VFL is closing in on a AFL return.
Fellow forward Aaron Naughton will be available after recovering from a sore knee, however Anthony Scott misses out through concussion.
St Kilda face three crucial games that could make-or-break their chances of making the top eight.
Following Friday night’s clash they have very winnable games against the West Coast Eagles and Hawthorn, before it starts to get really tricky.
They face Geelong, Brisbane and Sydney and need to have found some consistency by then.
Brett Ratten’s side have been on a poor run of form that has seen them slide out of the top eight after once looking nailed on to finish there.
A top-four spot was in sight at one point but four defeats in the last five games put an end to that.
The one victory in the last five was a good one though and proved what they can do when they are on their game. They managed to beat Carlton by 15 points on their own patch.
Unfortunately for the Saints they could not back it up the week after and lost to high-flying Fremantle. There was nothing in the game at half-time but the Dockers went on to win by 41 points and Ratten was far from impressed.
There is some good news for St Kilda as Daniel McKenzie could make his first appearance for a month after recovering from concussion and injury problems.
The luckless Dan Hannebery is closing in on a return but will have to wait another week before playing AFL. He will get a run in the VFL instead.
Meanwhile Jarryn Geary has announced his immediate retirement from the game following four years of injury torment. The 34-year-old made the announcement to his team-mates ahead of Friday night’s game.