Preview of round 22 of the AFL

PREVIEW OF AFL ROUND-22 MATCHES (all times AEST):

FRIDAY, August 18:

Adelaide v Sydney at Adelaide Oval, 7.50pm

Head to head: Crows 23 Swans 15

Last clash: SF 2017 – Swans 18.10 (118) bt Crows 12.10 (82) at SCG

Tab Sportsbet odds: Crows $1.65 Swans $2.25

William Hill: Crows $1.64 Swans $2.25

Is this a preview of the grand final? Sydney are in electric form, while ladder-leaders Adelaide have barely put a foot wrong all season. The Swans will be strengthened by the return of skipper Josh Kennedy, while Crows guns Rory Sloane and Taylor Walker will also line up after being cleared of injuries.

Key: The last time a side kicked 100-plus points against the Swans was GWS in round five. But will the Crows’ firepower be too much to handle?

Tip: Crows by 11

SATURDAY, August 19:

Western Bulldogs v Port Adelaide at Ballarat, 1.45pm

Head to head: Bulldogs 13 Port 13

Last clash: Round 12, 2016 – Bulldogs 15.10 (100) bt Port 14.13 (97) at Adelaide Oval

Tab Sportsbet: Bulldogs $1.85 Port $1.96

William Hill: Bulldogs $1.81 Port $2.00

The stakes are high for both the sixth-placed Power and ninth-placed Bulldogs as Ballarat hosts its first AFL game. The Dogs looked a shadow of their best during their 48-point loss to GWS last week. Mitch Wallis has been axed and Jack Redpath is suspended but the return of Jason Johannisen and Dale Morris will be a big help. If Port win this, they’ll fancy their chances for a home final with an easy home game against Gold Coast next week.

Key: Who can kick straight? The Bulldogs are the league’s most inaccurate team in front of goals this season and the Power are fourth-worst.

Tip: Port by 12

Collingwood v Geelong at MCG, 2.10pm

Head to head: Magpies 132 Cats 97 drawn 1

Last clash: Round 6, 2017 – Collingwood 15.17 (107) bt Geelong 11.12 (78) at the MCG

Tab Sportsbet: Magpies $2.60 Cats $1.50

William Hill: Magpies $2.45 Cats $1.55

Geelong made a big statement with their win over Richmond last week, and the prospect of a top-two finish is bound to be strong motivation. It spells trouble for Collingwood, who remain without suspended ruckman Brodie Grundy and have also lost Jordan De Goey, Tyson Goldsack and Alex Fasolo to injuries. Josh Daicos, the son of Pies legend Peter, will make his long-anticipated debut.

Key: Scott Selwood, Patrick Dangerfield and Sam Menegola had a combined 33 tackles last week. The Pies must be prepared to match their intensity.

Tip: Cats by 29

Greater Western Sydney v West Coast at Spotless Stadium, 4.35pm

Head to head: Giants 1 Eagles 5

Last clash: Round 10, 2017 – Giants 14.14 (98) bt Eagles 14.6 (90) at Domain Stadium

Tab Sportsbet: Giants $1.24 Eagles $4.10

William Hill: Giants $1.24 Eagles $4.00

Another must-win game for West Coast, who limped over the line against lowly Carlton last week. They’ll have to do a lot better to match it with the second-placed Giants, who tuned up for the finals with a big win over the Bulldogs. One undeniable ace up West Coast’s sleeve is Josh Kennedy, who leads the Coleman Medal race after booting an astonishing 26 goals from five games in his return from injury.

Key: The midfield combination of Josh Kelly, Dylan Shiel and Stephen Coniglio is one of the AFL’s best. It’s likely to prove too good for the ordinary Eagles.

Tip: Giants by 35

Gold Coast v Essendon at Metricon Stadium, 7.25pm

Head to head: Suns 2 Bombers 5

Last clash: Round 21, 2016 – Bombers 11.9 (75) bt Suns 9.15 (69) at Etihad Stadium

Tab Sportsbet: Suns $3.21 Bombers $1.35

William Hill: Suns $3.25 Bombers $1.33

With long-suffering coach Rodney Eade sacked, it was the same old story for the Suns, who were trounced by Brisbane last week. They’re unlikely to fare much better this week against a Bombers side desperate to salvage their slim finals hopes. The Dons have rested Jobe Watson and lost Michael Hurley to a calf strain but will welcome back young gun Zach Merrett from suspension.

Key: Joe Daniher and Cale Hooker combined for seven goals last week. Suns backline general Steven May will have his work cut out for him.

Tip: Bombers by 41

Carlton v Hawthorn at Etihad Stadium, 7.25pm

Head to head: Blues 102 Hawks 62

Last clash: Round 19, 2016 – Hawks 10.14 (74) bt Blues 7.13 (55) at Launceston

Tab Sportsbet: Blues $3.40 Hawks $1.32

William Hill: Blues $3.35 Hawks $1.32

The 17th-placed Blues look increasingly likely to end up with the wooden spoon after losing eight straight games. And things aren’t about to get any easier. Carlton haven’t beaten Hawthorn since round six, 2005. The Hawks will welcome back Jaeger O’Meara and Paul Puopolo, and after dispatching of North Melbourne last week, they will back themselves to prolong the Blues’ suffering.

Key: The Blues tried a more attacking style against West Coast but were made to pay for turnovers. Will they go back into their shells this week?

Tip: Hawks by 37

SUNDAY, August 20:

Melbourne v Brisbane at MCG, 1.10pm

Head to head: Demons 12 Lions 5

Last clash: Round 9, 2016 – Demons 19.17 (131) bt Lions 9.14 (68) at MCG

Tab Sportsbet: Demons $1.16 Lions $5.30

William Hill: Demons $1.13 Lions $5.75

Brisbane looked good last week during their big win over Gold Coast but Melbourne at the MCG is a very different proposition. The Dees will be without tough co-captain Jack Viney, who has succumbed to a foot injury, but spearhead Jesse Hogan is set to return ahead of schedule. Plenty rides on this game for Melbourne, who are eyeing their first finals series since 2006.

Key: The Dees have a history of losing winnable games when the stakes are high. This will be a big test of how far they’ve come under Simon Goodwin’s leadership.

Tip: Demons by 56

St Kilda v North Melbourne at Etihad Stadium, 3.20pm

Head to head: Saints 77 Kangaroos 77 drawn 2

Last clash: Round 13, 2017 – Saints 12.17 (89) bt Kangaroos 10.12 (72) at Etihad Stadium

Tab Sportsbet: Saints $1.41 Kangaroos $2.95

William Hill: Saints $1.40 Kangaroos $2.90

The Saints had a golden opportunity to set themselves up for a finals run but were dreadful against Melbourne last week. It’s unlikely they’ll make the eight from here but they will be hungry for redemption nonetheless. The return of retiring champion Nick Riewoldt should be incentive enough against a North Melbourne side limping towards the finish line.

Key: Saints ruckman Billy Longer got on top of Max Gawn last week. If he can do the same against Todd Goldstein and Braydon Preuss, the Roos will struggle.

Tip: Saints by 16

Fremantle v Richmond at Domain Stadium, 4.40pm

Head to head: Dockers 16 Tigers 18

Last clash: Round 8, 2017 – Dockers 10.12 (72) bt Tigers 10.10 (70) at MCG

Tab Sportsbet: Dockers $3.05 Tigers $1.39

William Hill: Dockers $3.00 Tigers $1.38

Richmond will be desperate to prove themselves after losing to an injury-weakened Geelong last week. A big win here would go a long way towards helping them secure a home final. The long-anticipated club debut of Harley Bennell is a big positive for Fremantle but there hasn’t been much else going right for them lately. Their final game at Domain Stadium looms as a defeat.

Key: Tigers fullback Alex Rance struggled against Harry Taylor’s aggressive tactics last week. Will the Dockers look to put him off his game?

Tip: Tigers by 56

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