Preliminary previews: Key match-ups of Pies v Giants and Lions v Blues

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Ahead of this week’s two preliminary finals, we analyse the key match-ups that will help decide which two teams qualify to play in the AFL grand final.

Toby Greene v Nathan Murphy/Jeremy Howe

Greene did not play in the round-nine clash between these sides, when the Magpies won by 65 points. But he had Jeremy Howe and Nathan Murphy as his opponents when the teams met in heavy rain in round 15 last year.

Howe, of course, has been spending time as a forward this season.

Greene, the All-Australian captain, is arguably the league’s most entertaining player, and was instrumental in the Giants’ 23-point win over the Power on Saturday night, with three goals.

GWS captain Toby Greene is always difficult to stop. On Friday night Collingwood’s Nathan Murphy (right) will probably spend some time on the dangerous Greene.Credit: Getty

While he is technically a medium-sized forward, he can play as a tall because of his strong overhead marking, while his skills at ground level are second to none.

The Magpies will look to push him away from the goals.

Steele Sidebottom/Josh Daicos v Josh Kelly

Sidebottom and Kelly lined up on a wing in round nine, the pair almost negating each other. Kelly had 27 disposals while Sidebottom had 25, but Kelly could also spend time on All-Australian Daicos.

Gut-runners Josh Kelly (GWS) and Josh Daicos (Collingwood) could find themselves facing off against each other on a wing at the MCG in the preliminary final.Credit: Getty

The smooth-moving Kelly has had a strong finals series, while the hard-running Sidebottom, who provides help in defence, was a key figure in the Magpies’ win over Melbourne.

Daicos, however, was quiet against the Demons (14 disposals), and the Giants will be keen to ensure this continues.

Jordan De Goey v Tom Green

This is a battle of the bulls. The pair lined up on each other in round nine, De Goey finishing with 31 touches, including seven clearances, and a goal, while Green had 30 and seven.

The robust Green has become one of the league’s best, and most powerful, midfielders, and carries the ball forward whenever possible. He had 29 touches, including eight clearances, against the Power.

De Goey is a brilliant finals performer, and should benefit from having Nick Daicos back in the fold.

The advantage here may ultimately go to the man who can have the most direct impact on the scoreboard.

Patrick Cripps v Josh Dunkley

When the two teams met at Marvel Stadium in round eight, Dunkley went head-to-head against Cripps as the Lions won by 26 points. The Brisbane recruit amassed 33 disposals, 14 contested possessions, 13 tackles, six clearances and 555 metres gained, while Cripps had only 17 touches (his second-lowest tally of the season).

Dunkley’s decision to regularly put a body on Cripps at centre bounces and stoppages before the Carlton skipper had moved paid off. It prevented Cripps from getting to, and extracting the ball, as he typically does. Cripps’ teammates this time must get into Dunkley if he tries to physically impose himself.

Carlton skipper Patrick Cripps and Brisbane recruit Josh Dunkley provide important midfield grunt for their respective teams.Credit: Getty

The Blues skipper has had a superb finals series. He came away from Friday night’s match against Melbourne with 27 touches (nine clearances) – and a cracked nose – against the Demons on Friday. Dunkley, meanwhile, has been one of the recruits of the season, adding to the Lions’ blue-chip on-ball brigade.

Jacob Weitering v Joe Daniher

Weitering and Daniher spent time on each other in round eight, when Weitering had yet to emerge as the force he has been since the mid-year break. His ability to intercept, he had 10 intercept possessions against the Demons, has also made him a rebounding threat. He had what appeared to be a sore wrist and later took a nasty knock to the throat on Friday but played on.

Daniher has had a stand-out year (his 60 metre bomb against the Blues still resonates in the memory), and is a legitimate match-winner. He booted five goals in the qualifying final win over the Power, and will also spend time in the ruck. While he will want to dominate Weitering one on one, Daniher will also be mindful of not allowing Weitering to run off to help teammates in marking contests. Daniher will push up the field.

Nic Newman v Charlie Cameron

This will be another enthralling contest. The dazzling Cameron had the better of Newman last time, the small forward booting four goals. Should he do so again, the Lions are likely to win.

Carlton’s Nic Newman will probably be asked to stem the influence of Brisbane match-winner Charlie Cameron.Credit: Getty

Charlie Curnow/Harry McKay v Harris Andrews/Jack Payne

Curnow hasn’t had the scoreboard impact he would have liked (two goals) in September, and was quelled by Melbourne’s Steven May on Friday. That’s no disgrace, though, for May is elite.

Curnow was still an important target, and the Blues would not have won without him out there.

In round eight, Andrews spent most of his time on McKay (one goal), while the unheralded Payne held Curnow to only a goal. If McKay returns from concussion this week, Andrews will most likely go to him again. If McKay does not return, Andrews may go to Curnow.

Andrews is elite on the last line of defence, but may struggle to keep up with Curnow or McKay when either pushes further afield.

The Blues have scrambled 11 goals in each of their two September wins. A bag of four from Curnow would make life much easier in a hostile territory where the Blues have not beaten the Lions since 2013.

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