Sunday football continues with arch-rivals Essendon and Carlton doing battle at the MCG. We’ll be bringing you a dedicated preview and betting tips for EVERY game in the 2021 season so be sure to check our AFL Betting Tips page regularly for updates.
MCG, Sunday 2nd May, 3:20pm AEST
Carlton and Essendon came into the season with completely different expectations, however it’s the Blues who find themselves under the pump after a 2-4 start to the season. With talented off season acquisitions to a side that was beginning to rise, Carlton looked destined for the top eight, but once again their inability to defend was exposed in their eighteen point loss to Brisbane last week.
Essendon are also sitting with a 2-4 record but their young side has shown plenty of promise, particularly 2020 draftees Nik Cox and Archie Perkins. The Bombers were excellent in their 24 point win over the Pies on Anzac Day, a win which will give their young group incredible belief.
After a strong performance in the VFL, Will Setterfield looks set to come in for the Blues. Whilst for the Bombers Jordan Ridley will return, and Nick Bryan will make his debut with Andrew Phillips missing through injury.
It’s a season defining clash for the Blues, who cannot afford to fall to 2-5. They will need to be at their best, coming up against an Essendon side that is the number one ranked pressure side in the competition. Essendon have averaged 70 tackles per game (1st in the AFL) whilst the Blues have averaged 51 (14th in the AFL).
Whilst Sam Walsh is having a career best season averaging 30 disposals per game, he needs support from fellow midfielders Patrick Cripps and Zac Williams who have been well down on their expected output this season. Cripps will have a big size advantage given Essendon have used Darcy Parish, Zac Merrett and Andy McGrath as their main midfield set up this season. If there was ever a week for Cripps to find his way back into form it’s this week, with the Bombers not having a matchup for the Carlton captain.
Carlton’s biggest advantage will come through key forward Harry McKay, who is having a career best season, averaging 3.7 goals and 7 marks per game in 2021. McKay’s 22 goals has him sitting second in the Coleman Medal race, and with Aaron Francis likely to be his matchup, he’ll have a twelve centimetre advantage. McKay terrorised Fremantle a few weeks ago, kicking 7.5 to go with 10 marks and 17 disposals. An undersized Essendon defence could face the same problems Fremantle did.
Essendon and Carlton have alternated wins since 2015, with Carlton defeating the Bombers by one point in round four last season. However with the Blues season on the line, you can expect a big performance on Sunday afternoon at the G. Essendon has fielded the youngest side in the AFL for the past five rounds and that will likely continue this week. The Blues' bigger bodies inside, and the height up forward will be too much for the young Bombers to handle.
Whilst Darcy Parish and Zach Merrett have deservedly received the attention for their outstanding seasons, Andrew McGrath has flown under the radar. McGrath is averaging a career high in disposals (25) contested possessions (10) and is ranked third in the AFL for tackles. McGrath is averaging 26 disposals in his past two games against the Blues, and racked up 32 disposals the last time he played them in a 20 minute quarter match. With Parish and Merrett set to command plenty of attention given their form, it will open plenty of opportunities for McGrath to win the footy.
Carlton captain Patrick Cripps has been quiet by his lofty standard this season, but has still managed to average 26 disposals per game in 2021. Cripps’ best performance of the season came against Fremantle in round three when he dominated an undersized Dockers midfield, enroute to picking up 34 disposals. On Sunday he gets an opportunity against a similar midfield that won’t have a matchup for him, which will give him a massive chance to rack up the footy. With Carlton’s season on the line, expect Cripps to rise to the occasion.
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