Where and when: Optus Stadium, Friday May 17, 6.10pm AWST
Last time they met: Optus Stadium, preliminary final, 2018: West Coast 18.13 (121) defeated Melbourne 7.13 (55)
Melbourne’s return to the preliminary final stage for the first time since 2000 could not have been a bigger disaster. The AFL’s highest-scoring team, the Demons were held goalless to half-time in a horror show that nobody saw coming.
What it means for West Coast: The Eagles have banked a couple of wins in a row and need to keep picking up the four points to stay in touch with the top four while they search for their best football.
What it means for Melbourne: The Demons’ season still has a pulse after nail-biting victories over Hawthorn and Gold Coast. Returning to the scene of their preliminary final shellacking and winning would be a huge boost for their finals hopes.
How West Coast wins: Melbourne had no answer to Josh Kennedy (four goals) and Jack Darling (three) last time and if the Eagles can get their big men enough quality supply the Demons’ injury-hit backline could struggle.
How Melbourne wins: By dominating the midfield. The Eagles have been better in the contest and getting their hands on the footy recently but haven’t hit top gear, so Melbourne’s onballers – led by Max Gawn, Clayton Oliver and Angus Brayshaw – need to win the battle.
The stat: Eagles spearhead Josh Kennedy hasn’t broken a game open this season but he is still their most valuable player and has booted at least one goal in his past 63 games, stretching back to the 2015 Grand Final.
The match-up: Elliot Yeo v Clayton Oliver
Yeo has been a big factor in the Eagles’ midfield finding some better form and the strong-bodied star is an ideal match-up for Melbourne beast Oliver, who had an incredible 38 touches and laid 15 tackles against Gold Coast.
It’s a big week for: Max Gawn
Gawn was completely shut out by Scott Lycett and Nathan Vardy in last year’s preliminary final shocker, and the Melbourne talisman needs a big performance for the visitors to cause an upset.
Big call: It’s been 13 games since Josh Kennedy bagged more than four goals in a match. The dual Coleman medallist is due and will nail at least five against the Demons’ questionable defence.
Mottsy’s Tip: Eagles by 30 points
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