WITH the home and away season coming to a close, the battle for finals positions heats right up heading into round 21.
The Swans, Tigers and Dogs are locked in a battle for the final position inside the top-four, the Hawks are still in the hunt for a top-two finish while the Cats, Giants and Crows will need to register wins to keep their finals hopes alive.
Magpies vs. Tigers
Saturday, August 22nd, 1:45pm, Melbourne Cricket Ground
Collingwood – $1.91 (+15.5)
Richmond – $1.91 (-15.5)
Two traditional rivals clash at the MCG to kick off Saturday’s action with the Magpies hosting the Tigers.
The Pies had their finals hopes dashed last week after they failed to capitalise on an injury-hit Sydney line up at the SCG.
The Tigers bounced back after a disappointing showing against Adelaide with a resounding win over the Suns, keeping their top-four hopes alive in the process.
Richmond regains exciting on-baller Shane Edwards after a stint on the sidelines with a hairline fracture in his leg.
The Tigers will be hopeful he can find some of his best form heading into the finals.
Collingwood blew their finals chances last week while Richmond are right in the hunt for a top-four finish and the game should reflect this.
Expect Richmond to cover the line quite easily on their way to another four premiership points.
Tip: Richmond to win – line bet (-15.5) $1.91 via Sportsbet
Exotic: Most possessions group 2 – Anthony Miles $4.00 via Sportsbet
Giants vs. Swans
Saturday, August 22nd, 2:10pm, Spotless Stadium
GWS – $1.91 (+11.5)
Sydney – $1.91 (-11.5)
The game of the round finds its way to Sydney with the Giants hosting the Swans at Spotless Stadium in a match with real finals implications.
The Swans cannot afford to drop games in the lead into the finals if they are to finish the season inside the top-four, with the Bulldogs and Richmond both in the hunt for fourth.
The Giants are on life-support after a disappointing showing against the Power last week, but still remain only two points outside the finals.
The Swans have lost two prolific ball winners to injury with Tom Mitchell and Luke Parker both ruled out of the match up.
Lance Franklin again has failed to prove his fitness for the third consecutive week.
The Giants have welcomed back Adam Treloar and Stephen Cogniglio for the pivotal clash.
With the key injuries to Parker, Mitchell and Franklin, the scales tip in the favour of the Giants, who should keep their finals chances alive.
Tip: GWS to win $2.65 via Sportsbet
Exotic: Most possessions group 1 – Adam Treloar $6.00 via Sportsbet
Suns vs. Bombers
Saturday, August 22nd, 4:35pm, Metricon Stadium
Gold Coast – $1.92 (-12.5)
Essendon – $1.92 (+12.5)
Saturday twilight finds its way to the Gold Coast as the Suns host the Bombers in a battle of the AFL cellar dwellers.
It has been a tumultuous week for the Dons with the sacking of head coach James Hird after the team lost 10 of its last 11 matches.
The Suns are also looking for the finish line in 2015 after another heavy loss, this time to the Tigers at the MCG.
There are five changes for both teams with Michael Hurley and Shaun McKerrnan returning for the Dons while Zac Smith and Danny Stanley make their way back into the Suns’ line up.
Hard to know where this one will go, as teams with recently departed coaches tend to offer more spirited performances then previously displayed.
It is hard to look past the Suns at home though, with the home team likely to leapfrog the struggling visitors with a win on Saturday.
Tip: Gold Coast to win $1.47 via Crownbet
Exotic: >Most goals – Tom Lynch $2.75 via Sportsbet
Saints vs. Cats
Saturday, August 22nd, 7:20pm, Etihad Stadium
St Kilda – $1.91 (+26.5)
Geelong – $1.91 (-26.5)
The Saints host the Cats at Etihad Stadium on Saturday night with Geelong needing a win to hold its place within the top-eight.
The Cats were smashed by the Hawks last week and will need a big lift from some of their big guns like Jimmy Bartel and Steve Johnson, who both failed to impact the match in the fashion we are accustomed to.
The Saints jumped out of the blocks to lead North Melbourne in the first half last week, but ran out of legs and could not sustain the momentum, going down by 37-points.
Exciting big man Nathan Vardy makes his way back into the Cats’ side for his first game of the season, with veteran defender Tom Lonergan also getting his chance.
The Saints have lost two of their best, with David Armitage and Sean Dempster both set to miss through a shoulder and nose injury respectively.
With finals on the line for the Cats, they will need to be at their ruthless best to get across the line against St Kilda, which should be a formality given where both teams currently sit on the ladder.
Tip: Geelong to win $1.24 via William Hill
Exotic: Jimmy Bartel to get 30 or more disposals $5.60 via Sportsbet
Crows vs. Lions
Saturday, August 22nd, 7.40pm, Adelaide Oval
Adelaide – $1.92 (-46.5)
Brisbane – $1.92 (+46.5)
Saturday night in Adelaide sees the Crows hosting the Lions in a match that has the potential to be a triple figure margin.
The Crows were dynamic last week, destroying Essendon at Etihad last week, keeping their finals chances alive with a special win.
The Lions climbed their way off the bottom of the ladder with a terrific win over the struggling Blues.
With the Crows in the hunt for the finals and needing wins and the Lions sitting in second last position with a litany of injuries, it is hard to see the visitors mounting a challenge.
Expect the Crows to surpass the line with consummate ease.
Tip:Adelaide to win – line bet (-46.5) $1.92 via Sportsbet
Exotic:Most possessions group 1 – Scott Thompson $5.50 via Sportsbet
Kangaroos vs. Dockers
Sunday, August 23rd, 1:10pm, Etihad Stadium
North Melbourne – $1.91 (-6.5)
Fremantle – $1.91 (+6.5)
First Sunday game of the round sees the Kangaroos hosting the top of the table Dockers in a match that means more to the home team than the visitors.
The Dockers were disappoin meant little in the overall scheme of things.
The Kangaroos stormed home to beat the Saints after trailing by four goals midway through the second quarter to record an important victory that keeps them firmly entrenched in the eight.
Luke McPharlin is a welcome return for the Dockers, who will need their centre half back in full fitness heading into the finals.
Fremantle skipper Matthew Pavlich will not travel with the team after succumbing to an achilles injury.
North Melbourne have lost inspirational midfielder Jack Ziebell to suspension, but regain dasher Jamie Macmillian.
With finals on the line for the Roos and a home qualifying final already locked down for the Dockers expect the home team to play with more passion and get the important win.
Tip: North Melbourne to win $1.68 via Sportsbet
Exotic: First goal scorer –Drew Petrie $10 via Sportsbet
Blues vs. Demons
Sunday, August 23rd, 3:20pm, Melbourne Cricket Ground
Carlton – $1.92 (+15.5)
Melbourne – $1.92 (-15.5)
The bottom placed Blues host the Melbourne Demons at the MCG in a match that won’t go down as one of 2015’s finest matches.
The Blues were awful last week against Brisbane, getting belted by 10 goals against a team with a host of injuries and nothing to play for.
The Demons were woeful last week, getting smashed by the Bulldogs by 98-points that left coach Paul Roos bereft of answers.
Big news out of the match is the omission of Blues forward Lachie Henderson, who has played his last game for the club after indicating he will be requesting a trade.
With the Blues in pole-position for pick one in the national draft it is hard to see why Carlton would be too keen to register four points that will take them off the bottom of the ladder.
Melbourne should win and cover the line.
Tip: Melbourne to win – line bet (-15.5) $1.92 via Sportsbet
Exotic: First goal scorer – Jesse Hogan $7.50 via Sportsbet
Eagles vs. Bulldogs
Sunday, August 23rd, 4:40pm, Domain Stadium
West Coast – $1.92 (-22.5)
Western Bulldogs – $1.92 (+22.5)
A top-four battle looms as one of the matches of the round with the Eagles hosting the Dogs over in the West.
The Eagles were brilliant last week in their Derby victory over the Dockers, bouncing out to an early lead and were never headed by their top of the table opponents.
The Dogs dismantled the Demons in a dominant display that boosted their percentage, which cemented their position in the top-four.
The Eagles welcome back Nic Naitanui after bereavement leave and Mark LeCras from a one week suspension, but lose important defender Will Schofield to a hamstring injury.
The Dogs have named Tom Boyd in their forward line and will be looking to expose the lack of height in the injury-hit Eagles defence.
On paper it looks like the Eagles should have no trouble sweeping aside the Dogs, but Luke Beveridge’s men have built their reputation on disproving the critics this season.
The match should be closer than the odds suggest but expect the Eagles to have too much experience through the middle for the young Dogs.
Tip: West Coast to win $1.29 via William Hill
Exotic: First goal scorer – Josh Kennedy $7 via Sportsbet
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