Where and when: Marvel Stadium, Saturday May 18, 7.25pm AEST
Last time they met: Marvel Stadium, round 18, 2018: Essendon 13.21 (99) defeated Fremantle 11.4 (70)
Orazio Fantasia was the star with five goals and three Brownlow Medal votes as the Bombers crashed past the Dockers with a comfortable 29-point win. They had 19 more scoring shots, so it could have been a far bigger victory as they made a late dash to (nearly) make the finals.
What it means for Essendon: The Bombers are on a three-game losing streak and need a victory to stay in touch with the top eight. To fall to 3-6 after nine rounds would nearly spell curtains for their finals hopes, so they need to bounce back after last week’s loss to the Swans, who were 18th on the ladder at the time.
What it means for Fremantle: Ross Lyon’s men are hanging on to eighth position on the ladder after a promising start to the year. An away victory in their first game in Melbourne for the season would add to an encouraging first eight weeks.
How Essendon wins: There needs to be better use of the ball heading into Essendon’s forward half. Too many times when the Bombers are under the pump they simply bomb the ball long, a tactic that is especially dubious given their lack of tall forwards through injury at the moment.
How Fremantle wins: Containing skipper and gun midfielder Nat Fyfe, Freo’s midfield has the big body that often troubles Essendon’s on-ball brigade. If Fyfe gets going like he did last week against the Tigers, when he had 33 disposals and three goals, John Worsfold will have concerns.
The stat: Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti hasn’t kicked a goal in any of Essendon’s losses this year, but has booted 13 in their three wins. If the Dockers stop him, the stats say they’ll go a long way to stopping the Dons.
It’s a big week for: David Zaharakis
Last week was the third-straight game the senior Bombers midfielder has not hit 20 possessions (he had 19 against the Swans). Essendon needs him firing.
The match-up: Tom Bellchambers has had a solid season but has shouldered Essendon’s ruck duties for most of the year. He will come up against an in-form and more athletic big man in Freo’s Rory Lobb this week, fresh off 45 hitouts, 19 disposals and a goal last week against Richmond.
Thommo’s Tip: Essendon by 18 points.
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