Take a look at our comprehensive preview of Essendon's clash against the Western Bulldogs on Friday night.
ESSENDON v WESTERN BULLDOGS
Friday, July 16
Live on Channel Seven
Games played - 161
Won – 94
Lost – 65
Drawn – 2
THREE QUICK FACTS
1. Worsfold draws level with Eade
John Worsfold will coach his 377th game on Friday night, drawing him level with former Sydney and Western Bulldogs coach Rodney Eade in 14th spot in AFL/VFL history. The 51-year-old has coached 95 games to add to his 281 at West Coast for a total of 192 wins.
2. Saad's half-century
Adam Saad will play his 50th club game amid career-best form. The former Sun, who became a Bomber in exchange for a future second-round pick, has missed just one game at Essendon. He has finished in the top four in the Crichton Medal in both seasons, representing the Bombers in this year's State of Origin for Bushfire Relief match. The star half-back, who turns 26 next week, is one of the early contenders for All-Australian selection after a sensational start to the season.
3. Debuts align for close mates
While the Bombers unearth No.56 draft pick Ned Cahill, the Bulldogs will have their own debutant in No.15 draft pick Cody Weightman. The small forwards share not only the same position, but a close friendship. They're both energetic, enthusiastic characters who spent plenty of time in the same forward line for Dandenong Stingrays and Vic Country last year.
LAST TIME WE MET
Round 21, 2019: Essendon 4.9 (33) lost to Western Bulldogs 21.11 (137) at Marvel Stadium
The Bombers were dealt the harshest of lessons on a dirty night, beaten in every facet of the game in their 104-point loss to the Bulldogs.
After Dylan Shiel kicked the game's first major, the Dogs piled on 21 unanswered - the second-most consecutive goals ever recorded in AFL/VFL history.
To the Bombers' credit, they rebounded the week after on the road against Fremantle to get their finals hopes back on track.
Round one: Defeated Fremantle 9.9 (63) to 8.9 (57) at Marvel Stadium
Round two: Defeated Sydney 12.7 (79) to 11.7 (73) at the SCG
Round four: Lost to Carlton 8.3 (51) to 7.10 (52) at the MCG
Round five: Defeated Collingwood 10.3 (63) to 7.6 (48) at the MCG
Round six: Defeated North Melbourne 9.13 (67) to 7.11 (53) at Metricon Stadium
The Bombers enter round seven as one of the competition's form sides in fourth place and with a 4-1 record. Their only blemish has been a one-point loss to Carlton, but their two performances since have been arguably their best. They've gone about their business without much fanfare, but are slowly winning admirers for their cohesion, grit and pressure. Their versatility has also been impressive, allowing them to plug the holes in the absences of stars Joe Daniher, Jake Stringer and Dyson Heppell.
Round one: Lost to Collingwood 5.4 (34) to 13.8 (86) at Marvel Stadium
Round two: Lost to St Kilda 7.7 (49) to 14.4 (88) at Marvel Stadium
Round three: Defeated Greater Western Sydney 8.9 (57) to 4.9 (33) at Marvel Stadium
Round four: Defeated Sydney 10.7 (67) to 5.9 (39) at the SCG
Round five: Defeated North Melbourne 13.9 (87) to 5.8 (38) at Marvel Stadium
Round six: Lost to Carlton 7.9 (51) to 16.7 (103) at Metricon Stadium
It's hard to get a read on the Bulldogs. With their ledger balanced at 3-3, their wins have been dominant and their losses lopsided. Their woes at Metricon Stadium continued last week, succumbing to their third consecutive loss at the venue despite having 12 more inside 50s than the Blues. Prior to that loss, they were in a rich vein of form with three wins by more than four goals. Like the Bombers, they'll again be without two of their best goalkickers in Aaron Naughton and Sam Lloyd, while prolific ball-winner Josh Dunkley remains on the sidelines.
Backs: Michael Hurley, Cale Hooker, Mason Redman
Half-backs: Adam Saad, Jordan Ridley, David Zaharakis
Centre: Brayden Ham, Andrew McGrath, Zach Merrett
Half-forwards: Darcy Parish, Will Snelling, Orazio Fantasia
Forwards: Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti, Shaun McKernan, Jacob Townsend
Followers: Andrew Phillips, Mitch Hibberd, Ned Cahill
Interchange: Conor McKenna, Devon Smith, Kyle Langford, Jayden Laverde
Emergencies: Tom Bellchambers, Martin Gleeson, Aaron Francis, Dylan Clarke
In: Cahill, Redman
Out: Shiel (suspended), Gleeson (managed)
New: Ned Cahill (Dandenong Stingrays)
Backs: Bailey Williams, Alex Keath, Caleb Daniel
Half-backs: Jason Johannisen, Easton Wood, Hayden Crozier
Centre: Jack Macrae, Marcus Bontempelli, Lachie Hunter
Half-forwards: Bailey Dale, Zaine Cordy, Laitham Vandermeer
Forwards: Mitch Wallis, Josh Bruce, Cody Weightman
Followers: Tim English, Tom Liberatore, Bailey Smith
Interchange: Matt Suckling, Ed Richards, Pat Lipinski, Lachie Young
Emergencies: Louis Butler, Billy Gowers, Callum Porter, Jordon Sweet
In: Weightman, Suckling, Crozier, Young
Out: Schache, West, McLean, Butler (all omitted)
New: Cody Weightman (Dandenong Stingrays)
BOMBER TO WATCH
There's already a bit of fanfare surrounding the Bombers' newest AFL debutant, and it's easy to see why.
Boasting goalkicking nous, skills and a bit of spunk, the blonde-haired Cahill plays an energetic brand of footy.
His draft year for Vic Metro and the Dandenong Stingrays was outstanding, rated as elite by Champion Data for goals (1.4), score assists (1.7) and score involvements (6.4) in the NAB League and above average for disposals (18.3) and contested possessions (8.8).
With Orazio Fantasia's move to half-back and Kyle Langford and Darcy Parish spending more time in the middle to cover for the suspended Dylan Shiel, expect the 19-year-old to get plenty of looks inside 50 on Friday night.
Oh, and for the record, it's pronounced 'Carl', not 'Kay-hill'.
When a team is rebounding from a disappointing loss, it's usually the captain who leads the way.
Expect Marcus Bontempelli to set the tone early as the Bulldogs look to right the wrongs from last week.
He likes playing against Essendon, too, kicking five goals and averaging 22 disposals in these sides' past three clashes.
While the Bombers will back their pressure and contested work to nullify the Bulldogs' midfield, they'll need to have a plan B should the most dangerous Dog get off the chain.
KEY TALKING POINTS
1. Recent history against the Dogs
History is history, but it's hard to ignore the fact that the Bulldogs have been the Bombers' bogey side in recent years.
The Dogs have never lost to the Bombers under Luke Beveridge's reign, boasting a five-game winning streak stretching back to round 18, 2015.
Their average winning margin in that period has been a hefty 56 points, too.
While last year's 104-point loss to the Dogs might have Bombers fans feeling anxious, this is a vastly different Essendon outfit this time round, as Beveridge alluded to this week.
"We haven't really gone to school too much on that (104-point win)," Beveridge told media on Thursday.
"They've changed significantly since then, not just personnel-wise but the way that they're playing.
"The momentum and the surge side of the game is significantly different to what we've seen in the past."
2. Covering another big loss
How big a loss is Dylan Shiel?
After finding avenues to goal without potent goalkicker Jake Stringer last week, the Bombers have been dealt another curveball with the suspension of one of their prime movers.
They won't be panicking, however, having already coped without reigning Crichton medallist Zach Merrett in their win over Collingwood in round five.
While debutant Cahill can roll through the midfield, Worsfold said after team selection that he'd look to increase midfield time for Parish and Langford, rather than introducing new midfielders.
Parish was unstoppable in the engine room against North Melbourne before spending more time forward in the second half, leading all comers for disposals, contested possessions, clearances, inside 50s and tackles at half-time.
While replacing Shiel will be no easy feat - he leads Essendon for disposals and clearances - the Bombers have already shown they have considerable depth this season.
Friday night will be just another opportunity for them to show it.