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The key issues: Cats v Swans

Ben Guthrie - AFL Media  September 14, 2017 9:29 AM

AFL 2017 Training - Geelong 130917

Scott Selwood might get the big job on Josh Kennedy

SYDNEY will go into Friday night's semi-final clash with Geelong as red-hot favourite to chalk up its fourth-consecutive victory over the Cats. 

The Swans have had the Cats' measure in five of the last six contests between the sides, with an average winning margin of 55 points emphasising the hold they have had over their rivals. 

The Cats will argue the personnel on their team on Friday night is far different to the one that was hammered by 46 points in last year's preliminary final, and they would be correct. 

But it is the Swans' game style (which has been proven to stand up in finals games) – built around winning the contested ball and applying unrelenting pressure to the opposition – that Geelong has found difficult to overcome.

Unlike previous encounters, Geelong cannot afford to be passive and pander to the Swans' proactive and aggressive starts to games. 

AFL.com.au has looked at the key questions/issues facing both sides in Friday night's do-or-die game.

1. Geelong must remedy its slow starts against Sydney
The start of the round 20 clash between these two sides was almost a carbon copy of the stunning first-quarter blitz Sydney produced in the preliminary final last year. The Swans booted seven majors in the first term of both games, effectively sewing up the contest before it had really even begun. Geelong cannot let its opposition dictate terms like that again and must come up with a plan to fix this issue. Whether it's their preparation, team structure or individual mindsets, the Cats and coach Chris Scott need to ensure they are in the game at quarter-time to make Friday night a contest. 

2. The Cats must play with boldness
Sydney has one of the most organised defensive units in the competition when it can set up behind the ball and force opposition teams to kick down the line to its numbers. However, teams which move the ball quickly and with precision have sometimes found the Swans' back six wanting. Geelong failed to do this against Richmond last week, with stagnant ball movement, playing into the Tigers' hands. The Cats must be bold against the Swans, shift the ball off the line and back themselves to hit the 'inside 45 kick' (bring the ball back into the corridor) to open up the ground. 

3. Can Sydney's midfield overpower Geelong's yet again?
The Swans' midfield depth has regularly overwhelmed Geelong in past encounters, with the battle-hardened bodies of Josh Kennedy, Dan Hannebery and Luke Parker proving too much for the Cats to handle. With Cameron Guthrie (calf) sidelined, Scott Selwood is likely to get a run-with role on Kennedy, leaving the rest of Geelong's midfield to step up. Patrick Dangerfield and Joel Selwood routinely do, but it will be up to Mitch Duncan and Sam Menegola to rise to the finals occasion and match it with the Swans stars.

4. Can Lonergan be Buddy's kryptonite one final time?
Retiring Cat Tom Lonergan is one of few key defenders to have got the upper hand on Swans superstar Lance Franklin. Lonergan is still an elite one-on-one defender and he has the experience and nous to curtail Franklin's influence. 'Buddy' took the points in last year's preliminary final, so Lonergan will be keen to get one back on him in their final ever battle. The Swans have proven they are not just a one-man band in attack, so expect Harry Taylor to shift back to defence to deal with the in-form Callum Sinclair and Sam Reid.

5. Is Sydney a premiership calibre team?
All signs suggest the Swans are a side capable of winning this year's flag, but if they are to make the Grand Final they must defeat the second-placed team, Geelong, and the first-placed team, Adelaide, over the next two weeks to book a place in the decider. Since round seven, the Swans have won 15 of 17 games and been the form side of the competition. The question will be whether the Swans can 'maintain the rage' this late in the season. If they play like they did against Essendon last week, the Swans should beat the Cats and set up a mouth-watering preliminary final match-up against the Crows.   

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