There’s some massive games to look forward to in Round 11.
We have just six games to go through with Geelong, Gold Coast, GWS, Hawthorn, North Melbourne and Port Adelaide all having a bye.
Who will win and why this weekend?
Let’s find out below:
Melbourne v Brisbane
Friday night – GIANTS Stadium
Round 12 kicks off with a massive Friday night clash between first and third.
Ladder leader Melbourne plays host to Brisbane at Giants Stadium as the 2021 season teeters precariously amidst Victoria’s latest COVID outbreak.
This match was originally scheduled for Alice Springs but will now take place at Homebush where the Demons won twice from two attempts in 2020.
The Lions, who have also won their last two at the ground, come into the weekend in red-hot form having won their last seven. Chris Fagan’s side is playing some outstanding footy at the minute, scoring 100 points or more in five of those seven victories.
They are the second best attacking team in the competition but come up against the Demons who have conceded an average of just 65 points as the league’s best defensive outfit.
The way their team defence stymied the free-flowing Western Bulldogs last weekend was impressive and if they are in that mood again, then expect it to be a lower scoring affair, especially compared to what the Lions have been used to of late.
On the personnel front, the Dees will be without wingman Ed Langdon who is out with concussion, while Brisbane will welcome back star midfielder Lachie Neale and underrated defender Ryan Lester.
It promises to be a ripper of a contest but the nod goes to the Demons with their defensive organisation and in-form on-ball brigade to narrowly edge out the Lions.
Tip: Melbourne by 8 points.
Sydney v St Kilda
Saturday – SCG
Despite their horror start to the season, the Saints could be outside of the top eight on just percentage with a win against Sydney at the SCG.
While finals are within touching distance for St Kilda, recent form suggests the Swans will be too strong at home.
Sydney has history on their side too, having won 10 of the past 11 clashes between the two sides, with the Saints only just breaking a long-losing streak in Round 9, 2020.
After missing last week’s clash against Carlton, ruckman Tom Hickey is set to return for the Swans against one of his former clubs, and the battle between he and Paddy Ryder could prove crucial to the game’s result.
St Kilda have looked at their best this year when Ryder has been firing, but without Rowan Marshall in the line-up, it could prove a tough task for the veteran against the in-form Hickey.
Another key match-up is Callum Wilkie on Isaac Heeney. The dynamic Swan was near unstoppable last week against Carlton, kicking three majors, taking 14 marks and gathering 22 disposals. Wilkie has demonstrated a proven ability to shut down dangerous forwards, and he’ll need to keep Heeney quiet if the Saints are a chance.
Ultimately, the Swans have looked a far more consistent side than the Saints this year, and as a result, it’s too hard to look past them at home.
Tip: Sydney by 24 points.
Adelaide v Collingwood
*Saturday – Adelaide Oval
South Australian health officials on Wednesday afternoon gave the green light for Collingwood to travel to Adelaide, but warned attendees not to touch the ball when it goes into the stands. On the evidence of last weekend, the seats behind the Magpie goalposts may be safest from contagion.
It wasn’t that Collingwood couldn’t move the ball forward against Geelong. They simply weren’t interested. It appears Nathan Buckley’s instructions are to deprive the game of oxygen, to either protect a young side from early expansion team-calibre blowouts or simply to compete.
The Magpies played with more impetus from late in the third quarter and came home with a rush but, perhaps in a vindication for the conservative coaching to that point, they were opened up and Geelong put the game out of reach.
On the other hand, Adelaide have this year embraced fast, optimistic football, and have scored and been scored against in bursts. On Sunday they put six goals past Richmond in the opening term and kicked the first four of the last, but conceded 11 across the quarters between.
Having experimented with his o-ball mix in 2020, Matthew Nicks has settled on Ben Keays, Rory Laird and Rory Sloane on the inside, and with the likes of Lachlan Sholl and Brodie Smith pressing up behind them, they shift the angle and drive the Crows’ forward momentum.
Saturday afternoon therefore shapes as a tussle of tactical philosophies, though Buckley could sense an opportunity to spark the Magpies’ season in a backs-against-the-wall scenario, and release the handbrake.
Collingwood historically travel well, and even without Brodie Grundy have the muscle in the middle to cut off the Crows’ supply, as the Tigers did in stretches.
However, Adelaide ran the reigning premiers close to red time, and deserve our trust ahead of this meeting.
Tip: Adelaide by 19 points.
Essendon v Richmond
Saturday – Optus Stadium
Essendon has been the darling team of the competition across the last month and now faces the challenge of taking on Richmond.
The traditional Dreamtime game will be played on neutral ground at Optus Stadium, in what is a twist in the usual affair.
The Bombers come in full of confidence having knocked off West Coast in Perth last week.
Their exciting and high pressure brand of football has been likened to Richmond’s and a win would see them leapfrog the reigning premiers and take their spot in the top eight.
Essendon was already based in Perth, while the Tigers needed to fly over from Sydney following their hard-fought win over Adelaide.
Richmond is starting to get its prime ball movers back. Dion Prestia, Trent Cotchin and Shai Bolton all returned from injury last week and will be better for the run.
They also have won their last 10 clashes with Essendon, including last year at TIO Stadium in Darwin.
The Tigers have dominated the Bombers since late 2014 and this looms as the latter’s best shot in a number of years.
Essendon will ride good vibes and a week without travel into the game, but they may just get a reality check from the competition’s benchmark this weekend.
Richmond got the vital four points against Adelaide and are now entering their usual second half of the season gear-up for finals.
Tip: Richmond by 20 points.
Carlton v West Coast
Sunday – SCG
Carlton and West Coast do battle on neutral turf at the SCG with both teams looking to revive their stuttering campaigns.
The two clubs are coming off disappointing losses last week and require an urgent response moving into the second half of the season.
The Blues once again ran out of steam in their 22-point defeat to Sydney, conceding five of the last six goals in what has become a concerning trend under coach David Teague.
Sitting 13th on the ladder with a 4-7 record and two games outside the top eight, Carlton’s finals hopes are fading fast.
They face the injury-hit Eagles who were overrun by Essendon last time out, falling to their first loss at Optus Stadium this season.
West Coast (6-5) squandered a 29-point lead and lost Tim Kelly (knee) and Oscar Allen (concussion) to injury in the 16-point loss, further denting their top four chances.
The SCG isn’t a happy hunting ground for the Eagles – they have won just four of their last 21 games at the venue.
Can Carlton capitalise on West Coast’s lengthy injury list and get a much-needed win against a top eight opponent? It’s hard to trust the Blues at the moment.
Tip: West Coast by 17 points.
Fremantle v Western Bulldogs
Sunday – Optus Stadium
The second of two games in Perth in Round 12 sees a struggling Fremantle host a Western Bulldogs side who will still be smarting after being soundly beaten in last Friday’s top of the table clash against Melbourne.
The manner in which the Dogs lost last week would have concerned Luke Beveridge, with a number of a turnovers and skill errors costing them against a well-drilled Dees outfit and after a week in Sydney, they’ll be looking to make amends.
Fremantle’s season is slowly slipping away after another loss – albeit to Port Adelaide away from home – and they are in desperate need of a statement win.
The task ahead for the Dockers won’t be easy and despite losing to the Dees, the Dogs are still a formidable outfit and remain one of the premiership favourites.
This is simply a must-win game for Justin Longmuir’s team if they hold any ambition of playing finals, but the Dogs are clear favourites here and shouldn’t be slipping up even though the game is being played at Fremantle’s favoured Optus Stadium.
Tip: Western Bulldogs by 25 points.