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Match Preview: Cats v Bombers

Tim Kelly is ranked the best first-year player in the Schick AFL Player Ratings this year. - Geelong Cats
Tim Kelly is ranked the best first-year player in the Schick AFL Player Ratings this year.

SUMMARY
Essendon's season has reached its crunch time far earlier than it, or many others, would have expected. The Bombers have lost their last four games and six of their past seven since their comeback win over Adelaide in round one. They are out of form, lacking rhythm and structure, struggling for spirit and appear lost for answers. But they need to find some as soon as possible if they are to salvage their year and finals hopes, and will be hoping they can do that against Geelong on Saturday in the now annual 'Country Festival' clash at the MCG. The Cats have had their injury concerns throughout the year but enter round nine in third position on the ladder and with a strong platform of performances behind them. Last week wasn't their best, a hard-fought 21-point win over Collingwood, but they regain Tom Hawkins from suspension for the Bombers' clash and will be confident of continuing their run of wins. 

WHERE AND WHEN: MCG, Saturday, May 19, 4.35pm AEDT
TV AND RADIO: Click here for broadcast guide

LAST FIVE TIMES

R8, 2017, Essendon 17.8 (110) d Geelong Cats 13.15 (93) at the MCG
R20, 2016, Geelong Cats 15.10 (100) d Essendon 4.10 (34) at Etihad Stadium
R4, 2016, Geelong Cats 9.18 (72) d Essendon 6.6 (42) at the MCG
R10, 2015, Geelong Cats 19.8 (122) d Essendon 7.11 (53) at Etihad Stadium
R15, 2014, Geelong Cats 13.11 (89) d Essendon 11.14 (80) at Etihad Stadium 

THE SIX POINTS

1. Since round four the Bombers are averaging just 67 points a game, well down on the 94 points they were averaging in the opening month of the year. Geelong has been difficult to score against in the past month, conceding an average of just 53 points since round four.

2. Essendon's win in 2017 against the Cats ended a six-game losing streak against Geelong. Its previous win occurred in 2011 and they haven't won consecutive clashes with the Cats since 2001-02.

3. It's hard work being an Essendon forward at the moment. The Bombers are ranked last for inside 50 entries this season (averaging just 48.4 a game). The Cats are 10th in the competition with an average of 51.8.

4. If things are even at half-time of Saturday's clash then the Cats will fancy their chances to storm ahead in the third term. Essendon still hasn't won a third quarter this year and in contrast the third term has been a strength for the Cats, scoring an average of 10 more points than their opposition every third term so far this season. 

5. Tim Kelly's excellent debut season has been reflected in the Schick AFL Player Ratings, with Kelly ranked the best first-year player in the competition.

6. David Zaharakis has been one Bomber to have performed consistently this season. The midfielder started the season ranked at No.103 in the Schick AFL Player Ratings but has risen to No.77 after eight games.

IT'S A BIG WEEK FOR …

Midfielder Zach Merrett admitted this week he is down on the form of his past two seasons as he comes to terms with being tagged every week. The Bombers need him firing, though, if they are any chance to resurrect their year.

PREDICTION: Geelong by 35 points

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs