Essendon vs Sydney
Etihad Stadium, 7:50pm Friday July 27
Team news: Shaun McKernan will go out for the Bombers after severely injuring his hamstring last week against Fremantle. The good news is Jake Stringer and Conor McKenna are both available for selection.
Heath Grundy is a chance to come back into the Swans line-up depending on how Sydney want to set up against Essendon’s small and quick forward line. Kieran Jack is also a chance to return.
Injury Watch: After a breakout year, Essendon’s Shaun McKernan will miss the rest of the season with a hamstring injury.
Sydney could have Jarrad McVeigh back in the next fortnight and Gary Rohan will miss three weeks after having surgery on his hand.
Prediction: A massive game for both clubs. Sydney will want to bounce back from that shock loss to Gold Coast last week and consolidate their spot in the top four while Essendon need to win to keep their finals chances alive. If there is any team that can shut down the Bombers’ run it’s the Swans and they will be hungry for the win. Sydney by 13 points
Richmond vs Collingwood
MCG, 1:45pm Saturday July 28
Team news: The Pies pulled Darcy Moore from the side late last week but he should be okay to play this week. Jordan De Goey has been ruled out for two weeks.
Injury Watch: Richmond could have Bachar Houli back from a groin complaint this week but the defender may go through the VFL before returning to the senior side.
Collingwood star Steele Sidebottom underwent surgery on his jaw this week but its expected he’ll be fine to play this weekend.
Prediction: People are touting Collingwood as the biggest threat to Richmond at the MCG but the Tiges got the job done comfortably over them earlier in the season and they should get it done on Saturday. Richmond by 19 points.
Geelong vs Brisbane
GMHBA Stadium, 2:10pm Saturday July 28
Team news: Harris Andrews has been cleared to return to footy for the Lions this week.
Injury Watch: George Horlin-Smith (Geelong) injured his shoulder in the VFL last week and will be out for another two to three weeks.
Prediction: The Lions have been pushing some good teams recently and have become a dangerous side if you underestimate them, but Geelong need to win to get back into the eight and should get the job done. Geelong by 23 points
GWS vs St Kilda
Spotless Stadium, 4:35pm Saturday July 28
Team news: Ryan Griffen and Aiden Corr are chances to return for the Giants if they can get through training this week.
St Kilda’s Blake Acres has been in red hot form in the VFL and should be called up to the seniors this week.
Injury Watch: Matt de Boer and Harry Perryman (GWS) should be ready to go in the next week or two.
Prediction: These two teams created our only draw for the season earlier in the year but GWS are a different side now and are another team that have to keep winning if they want to play finals football. GWS by 28 points
Gold Coast vs Carlton
Metricon Stadium, 7:25pm Saturday July 28
Carlton are expecting to have Matthew Kreuzer and Dale Thomas back into the team this weekend.
Injury Watch: Gold Coast will lose Jack Martin with a four to five week injury and that could end his season.
The Blues will be without young gun Zac Fisher and Liam Jones for the rest of the season.
Prediction: Match of the round! There’s not really even a wooden spoon in the mix here because Carlton have pretty much sown that up but this will likely be the Blues’ last chance to get a second win on the board. Gold Coast by 23 points
Adelaide vs Melbourne
Adelaide Oval, 7:10pm Saturday July 28
Team news: Tex Walker looks like he will be coming back in for the Crows, but Tom Doedee is unlikely to play after suffering a concussion last week.
Injury watch: Brodie Smith got through his return game in the SANFL unscathed and will play another game there this week and will hopefully return to the senior side for the Adelaide Showdown.
Melbourne are hoping to have Jack Viney and Michael Hibberd available in round 21.
Prediction: A big game for these clubs and their finals chances. It will come down to who is better on the day but Adelaide are just about back to full strength. Adelaide by eight points
North Melbourne vs West Coast
Blundstone Stadium, 1:10pm Sunday July 29
Team news: Mason Wood is in contention to return to the Roos’ line up this week while Ben Jacobs’ condition is still unknown.
Injury watch: Veteran Jarrad Waite is a chance to be back for North Melbourne by round 20.
Eagle Nic Naitanui underwent a knee reconstruction on Wednesday and will begin his journey back to football.
Prediction: A tough game to pick as West Coast are flying but North Melbourne love to play in Tasmania. The Eagles need to consolidate second spot. West Coast by 15 points.
Western Bulldogs vs Port Adelaide
Mars Stadium, 3:20pm Sunday July 29
Injury watch: Tom Jonas (Port Adelaide) will miss a month of football but should be right for the finals.
Prediction: Port Adelaide need to keep winning to consolidate their spot in the top eight and they will be hungry for a victory after a tough loss to the Giants last week. Port Adelaide by 27 points.
Fremantle vs Hawthorn
Optus Stadium, 2:40pm Sunday July 29
Team news: Shaun Burgoyne and Jaeger O’Meara are expected to come back into the Hawks line up this weekend.
Injury watch: Fremantle skipper Nat Fyfe is expected to return from a hamstring injury in three weeks.
If Hawthorn make the finals they are likely to have James Sicily, Ben McEvoy and Grant Birchall back into the team.
Prediction: Hawthorn need to win to remain in the eight, but Fremantle have been very good at home. It will be a tough contest but Hawthorn will want it more. Hawthorn by 11 points.
Point to prove:
Hawthorn. If the Hawks want to play finals football this year, they need to beat Fremantle this Sunday.
Going over to Perth has been no easy task for clubs this year and Fremantle have won six of their nine games at Optus Oval including wins against Essendon, Port Adelaide and Adelaide.
Hawthorn have a tough run home with matches against Essendon, Geelong and Sydney still to come so wins like these are needed if they want to stay in the mix for finals.
Melbourne. The stress among Melbourne supporters must be through the roof right now.
The Demons currently sit seventh on the ladder and if they don’t beat Adelaide this week, they are a very good chance to drop out of the top eight.
They were touted as top four and even premiership chances earlier in the season but now they just need to concentrate on actually making the eight. Their tight losses are what’s hurting them.
If they had have won one of the close losses to Geelong they would be fourth on the ladder right now. If the won both, they would be second.
There will be some serious questions asked of the club if they fall out of the finals late in year once again.
You have to feel for their supporters.
Photo of the week:
First for everything, luckily for everyone that it went smooth. The ball came back to me and the bird flew away………. Play on pic.twitter.com/FnmPCbTr1e