LAST TIME: Carlton 11.13 (79) defeated by Essendon 15.19 (109) round 4, 2012 at the MCG
Both these sides may have entered this season with highly different expectations, but the results have been very similar in what has been a chaotic year for consistency.
Both have looked capable of winning it all at stages, only to suffer a form drop off. Both have extensive injury lists and both would feel that if not for a five percent drop in performance across a few weeks they’d have already booked their place in the finals.
It certainly appears that both seasons are on the line tonight. A loss for Carlton would leave them two games outside the eight, a loss for Essendon would almost certainly see them into the bottom 10 of the ladder for the first time since last season.
Carlton appear to have found confidence after three gritty victories in captain Chris Judd’s absence. His return should provide a valuable boost to a side fighting for its life.
Judd’s bizarre ‘chicken wing’ incident seemed set to completely derail Carlton’s year. It seemed the perfect exclamation point on a year which could not have turned out much worse.
But for all the woe and disappointment encountered, they should enter the contest as overwhelming favourites.
Essendon has lost its last four matches, and five of its past six, only managing to beat Port Adelaide as their top four hopes have turned into a desperate fight to remain in the eight.
Captain Jobe Watson is a strong chance for the Brownlow Medal, but he still doesn’t receive enough support. Still, the last time these sides met Essendon announced itself with a display of physicality and gut running which completely outclassed the Blues.
As Essendon’s optimism starts to fade, they’ll live in hope that they can rediscover that form.
Carlton seem to be a side hell bent on making the finals, and a win against Essendon will certainly keep that door ajar. A loss for either side would be disastrous, but Essendon have fallen in a rut that looks too deep for even the genius of James Hird to find an escape from.
Carlton by 18
B: Jake Carlisle, Kyle Hardingham, Dyson Heppell
HB: Alex Browne, Cale Hooker, Dustin Fletcher
C: Courtenay Dempsey, Brent Stanton, David Zaharakis
HF: Leroy Jetta, Stewart Crameri, Angus Monfries
F: Michael Hurley, Patrick Ryder, Alwyn Davey
Foll: Tom Bellchambers, Jobe Watson, Heath Hocking
I/C: Sam Lonergan, Jake Melksham, Michael Hibberd, Brendan Lee
Emg: Nathan Lovett-Murray, Travis Colyer, Mark Baguley
In: Patrick Ryder, Brent Stanton, Cale Hooker, David Zaharakis
Out: Nathan Lovett-Murray, Scott Gumbleton (Soreness), Travis Colyer, Mark Baguley
B: Nick Duigan, Simon White, Zach Tuohy
HB: Bryce Gibbs, Andrew McInnes, Christopher Yarran
C: Heath Scotland, Chris Judd, Kade Simpson
HF: Andrew Walker, Jarrad Waite, Marc Murphy
F: Eddie Betts, Levi Casboult, Jeffrey Garlett
Foll: Matthew Kreuzer, Mitch Robinson, Andrew Carrazzo
I/C: Dennis Armfield, Brock McLean, Edward Curnow, Tom Bell
Emg: Bret Thornton, David Ellard, Rhys O’Keeffe
In: Chris Judd, Nick Duigan
Out: Rhys O’Keeffe, Matthew Watson