MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 07: players wrestle during the round eight AFL match between the Richmond Tigers and the Collingwood Magpies at Melbourne Cricket Ground on May 07, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

When Collingwood and Richmond set foot on the MCG tonight, there will be everything to play for. Despite the fact, the season is only three rounds in.

Both sides, notably Collingwood, have elevated their game plan even further, by running all over premiers Geelong, then extinguishing the Power of Port Adelaide en route to a 71-point caning.

The early signs are that last year's golden run from a point away from a grand final was no fluke.

Richmond, on the other hand, started with a draw against Carlton before beating Adelaide, where the Crows narrowed the gap to a single point early in the final term after holding a 45-point lead in the first half, before pulling away.

Both teams share a similar game style, with the Tigers being known for their high-tempo ball movement at all costs, whilst Collingwood under Craig McRae use the corridor to slice apart the opposition, bringing their forwards up the ground before quickly shifting back deep to the goal square, catching the opposition on the back foot.

Richmond still has plenty of ammunition to be a threat, but a few lingering questions will be on their defence. Despite finishing ninth for points conceded (80.9), at times the normally solid backline got significantly exposed. That came in their elimination final exit when they couldn't stem Brisbane's scoring, only to watch Joe Daniher stick his boot through for the winning goal in the final minute. Through the opening two rounds, Richmond's defence has been solid.

The Magpies though are sure to test them out.

Collingwood has begun the 2023 season like a house on fire. Swooping all over Geelong in a dominant final term before making Port Adelaide look second-rate. If you said back during the woeful 2021 campaign that the Magpies would be vying for a flag, most pundits would have dismissed it.

Throughout their illustrious 141-year history, the club has rarely stayed down the bottom for long, barring seasons 1998 and 1999.

Tom Mitchell's addition to the midfield adds an extra layer of class and experience. Most known for being a ball magnet, his work in contested situations and stoppages has completely reversed the side's ability to win their fair share in both areas. Having Mitchell in the middle is providing Taylor Adams with an additional new role as a half-forward, one in the early going has worked out smoothly.

As a team, Collingwood is spoilt for choices. With former GWS small forward Bobby Hill already having an impact, room for Jack Ginnivan back in the side won't be easy.

Barring a sickening arm fracture to high-flying defender Jeremy Howe and a shoulder issue to Patrick Lapinski, the Magpies have a near-clean bill of health. Howe's replacement Billy Frampton made a solid debut for his new club. After being beaten early by Charlie Dixon, Frampton eventually got the better of him. Another difficult assignment awaits the former Crow and Power player, with a likely matchup with Tom Lynch.

Whilst Collingwood comes into the blockbuster humming, Richmond has been struck by the injury bug. Four key players won't lineup, with three-time Norm Smith medallist Dustin Martin (general soreness), Jacob Hopper (knee), Jayden Short (calf) and Nathan Broad (four-game suspension) all missing.

The quartet's absences are significant, with Martin's match-winning presence, Hopper's contested work, Short's ability to rotate between half-back and in the midfield, and Broad's ability to play either tall or small. His most likely opponent would have been either Bobby Hill or Beau McCreery.

On top of those absences include tall defenders, Robbie Tarrant (hip complaint) and Josh Gibcus (hamstring). A fairly significant dent to the Tigers, especially in the back six with veteran Dylan Grimes, Noah Balta, Nick Vlastuin, Liam Baker and Daniel Rioli having to shoulder the load against Collingwood's zippy group of forwards.

In what will be a riveting contest between these two rivals is the dangling carrot of whether Richmond opt to tag Nick Daicos. Last year's Rising Star Winner has been unstoppable in the first two rounds. Daicos tore Geelong apart, collecting 35 disposals and 579 metres gained, and last round against Port Adelaide amassed 32 touches and 661 metres gained.

The Tigers don't normally play a tagger, so there will be intrigue as to how they approach this.

Trying to put the brakes on him is a tough task, but there is a glimmer. Particularly the Magpies' match last season against Sydney when Ryan Clarke completely blanketed Daicos' influence all game. Port's ploy by sending the burly Lachie Jones to him only lasted a quarter before the switch was made.

Perhaps the Tigers send Maurice Rioli Jr at him? The small forward is an excellent pressure player that could make Daicos accountable.

Over the last 43 years, these long-time rivals have had many battles. From the Jake King - Alan Didak 2009 brawl, Brodie Grundy's game-winner in Round 2, 2016, the 2020 draw in front of a desolate MCG, Mason Cox's marvellous 2018 preliminary final performance, the 1980 Grand Final, and more immersing moments.

What we should get is a belter of a contest in front of close to 90,000 spectators.