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Match preview: West Coast v Essendon

BTV: Mid-season bests | Goals Watch Essendon's best goals from the first half of the season.

The Eagles (10-2) slipped from the top of the ladder after a second loss to Sydney for the season but they have a game in hand and can reclaim the lead from Richmond with a victory over long-time rival Essendon on Thursday night. The 13th-placed Bombers are coming off the bye and, at 5-7, can kiss their finals chances goodbye if they can't conjure a massive upset on their second visit to Optus Stadium this year. Although star forward Jack Darling's absence was telling against the Swans, the Eagles' firepower at home looms as a major problem for the Dons, with West Coast averaging 106 points at its new fortress, where it has won six on the trot. Essendon breathed some life into its flagging campaign with three wins from four games before the bye, including two road triumphs, but has a shocking record in Perth, losing seven-in-a-row.

WHERE AND WHEN: Optus Stadium, Thursday, June 21, 6.10pm AWST
TV AND RADIO: Click here for broadcast guide 

R9, 2017, Essendon 19.11 (125) d West Coast 8.16 (64) at Etihad Stadium

R15, 2016, West Coast 20.10 (130) d Essendon 7.10 (52) at Subiaco Oval
R11, 2015, West Coast 14.12 (96) d Essendon 6.10 (46) at Subiaco Oval
R21, 2014, Essendon 11.11 (77) d West Coast 11.8 (74) at Etihad Stadium
R20, 2013, West Coast 18.12 (120) d Essendon 9.13 (67) at Etihad Stadium

1. Containing the Eagles will be a challenge for the Bombers. West Coast is ranked third for scoring (97 points per game) and has averaged 112 points at home in the past five games – topping the ton four times. Essendon (13thfor points) has notched the century once in 2018.

2. The clubs have split the past eight clashes 4-4 and there have been some blowouts, with six of those games decided by 50 points or more.

3. Essendon's record in Perth is ugly reading. The Bombers have lost their past seven by an average of 49 points, including a 16-point defeat to Freo on their first visit to Optus Stadium in round two.

4. Bombers big man Tom Bellchambers will have his hands full against West Coast ruck do Nic Naitanui and Scott Lycett. The Eagles average 50.2 hit-outs (AFL No.2), while Essendon is ranked 10thin the competition (38.3). 

5. The Eagles have been quick out of the blocks in 2018, winning a League-high 10 first quarters and 33 overall. Opening terms are also Essendon's best quarter, with the Bombers ahead in seven, with 18 quarters won overall. 

6. Reigning club champion Elliot Yeo was West Coast's best with 30 disposals and two goals in the loss to Sydney and is close to becoming the Schick AFL Player Ratings' top-ranked Eagle. Yeo is up to 28thoverall, a rise of 52 spots since last year, and only Luke Shuey (18) is higher.

John Worsfold
. The West Coast legend has a 1-1 record coaching against his former club and needs to find a way to upset the Eagles to keep the Bombers' faint finals hopes alive. 

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