The Sydney Swans face the Western Bulldogs in a huge game at the SCG on Friday night as the battle to make the eight and play finals starts to hot up.
The top six look to be pretty much locked in but the battle to clinch the last two spots in the eight is tight and both the Swans and Bulldogs are involved.
Just four points separate Richmond in seventh and the Bulldogs in 10th. Then the Gold Coast Suns and Port Adelaide are a further four points behind and battling to keep their hopes alive.
It is another big week then and the clash on Friday could go a long way to determining who makes finals. Whoever loses, their season could be on the brink.
Sydney hold a four-point lead over the Bulldogs and also have home advantage on their side. However the Bulldogs are very capable of getting a result and the outcome of this game is a tough one to call.
Let’s take a look at both teams as we head into the Friday night blockbuster.
What: Sydney Swans v Western Bulldogs
Where: SCG, Sydney
When: 19:50 (AEST) Friday 8th July 2022
How to watch: 7mate, Kayo, Fox Footy
Odds: Sydney 3/5, Bulldogs 27/20
It is fair to say that Sydney are having a frustrating 2022 AFL campaign. They have proven they can beat the best on their day as they showed with the recent win over the reigning premiers Melbourne.
However they have also put in some below-par performances to lose games that they really should be winning.
That was on show last weekend when they slipped to a nine-point loss against a struggling Essendon side in Melbourne.
Finding consistency will be key to their chances of securing a place in finals and then going deep into them and they need to start hitting their straps about now.
These two sides have already met on one occasion this season. It came in round three. Sydney were on a high after winning the opening two games while the Bulldogs had lost both.
However it was the Bulldogs that picked up an 11-point win and the Swans will be out for revenge. But they will have to do better than the nine goals they kicked in that 71-60 loss.
"It's very frustrating, the gap between our best and worst is too big at the moment," Swan co-captain Dane Rampe said heading into the game. "We can match it with the best teams, that's kind of the carrot dangling at the end of the season.”
The Swans are missing something and the job is to find it sooner rather than later.
They have also been hit by the news they will be without influential ruckman Tom Hickey through illness.
It is particularly bad news as the Bulldogs welcome back their star ruckman Tim English and only time will tell whether that will have a big impact on the outcome of the game.
The Bulldogs, very much like the Swans, have failed to hit their straps and play consistent football this season. The kind of football that took them all the way to the grand final before they lost to Melbourne in Perth.
Big questions were raise about their flag credentials following a 41-point defeat against high-flying Brisbane last week and they will need to respond against the Swans.
However they are just one win behind the eight and coach Luke Beveridge is also confident that his side could have a strong end to the season if they can find the missing link.
"Obviously off the back of last year, the expectation is that you're there again,” Beveridge told reporters ahead of the game. "The fact of the matter is, we're not, but the belief is still high and there's a lot more water to go under the bridge."
The Bulldogs will have to be much stronger in defence if they are to kick on. They were heavily criticised in that area following the loss to Brisbane.
The return of English will be a big plus for them, while Ed Richards and Mitch Hannan have also been brought into the fold.
Beveridge’s men also face a tough run in to the season so need to find their form quickly. After the game against the Swans they must face St Kilda in another huge eight-pointer.
Then there are games against premiership hopefuls Melbourne, Geelong and Fremantle to follow.
It could not get much harder which puts even more importance on the Swans clash with four points a must.