Brisbane coach Michael Voss says Carlton have been the best side the Lions have played this AFL season.
The two clubs will clash at Etihad Stadium on Saturday night, with the Blues hanging on to only faint finals hopes while the Lions are out of the running.
But Voss says after being hit by a wave of injuries, Carlton’s side is again starting to resemble the one that embarrassed the Lions by 91 points at the Gabba in round two.
“They pulled us apart and the speed of the game that they played, they were really up and about,” Voss told reporters on Friday.
“I still maintain that despite what’s happened to them across the whole year, they’ve actually been the best side we’ve played the whole year.
“Their aggressive running, we know if anything we got their brutal best.
“So we should be fully understanding and respectful of their capabilities.”
Voss said Carlton’s midfield in particular, which has recently been bolstered by the return of Andrew Carrazzo and Marc Murphy, with Mitch Robinson making his comeback on Saturday night, was again looking very strong.
The Lions could get an edge up forward, with in-form skipper Jonathan Brown to take on an inexperienced Blues defence, but Voss said that would not help much if Brisbane could not get the ball forward.
“You don’t have to be Einstein to realise the more times we get it in there the more chance we have to score,” he said.
The Blues are missing their two main key defenders Michael Jamison and Lachie Henderson.
Carlton assistant coach Alan Richardson said they were looking forward to seeing how inexperienced Blues backmen Matthew Watson, Simon White and Andrew McInnes coped with Brown.
“He’s a fantastic player, he’s certainly found some form,” Richardson said.
“We think it’s really exciting for our young guys to get an opportunity.
“To see young Tommy Bell play through the midfield against someone like Simon Black or even Daniel Rich (or) McInnes to get an opportunity on a player like Jonathan Brown.
“We think it’s a fantastic opportunity for those guys to grow.”
At the other end of the ground, Richardson said the return of Andrew Walker, after Jarrad Waite’s comeback last round, made the Blues much more potent.
“They’re massive inclusions,” he said.