The footy gods are fickle beings. On the one hand, they've gifted us a blockbuster between what the ladder deems the two best sides in the competition... under the lights on Friday night, no less. The catch is its two best players face a race to be ready for the battle, and regardless of what they might say, Adelaide's Rory Sloane and Geelong's Patrick Dangerfield surely won't be operating at 100% capacity come the first bounce... if they make it there at all. So, instead of sweating over the final teams for tonight's epic, we'll ask a much more pressing question: Who wins?
THE FORM The Crows didn't hit the ground running after their Round 13 bye, losing at their home deck to Hawthorn by 14 points. Since then though, they haven't skipped a beat, beating Carlton (at the MCG), the Western Bulldogs (Adelaide Oval) and Melbourne (TIO Stadium) to take a three match win streak into tonight's match. Couple that with what we know now about Hawthorn's resurgent form, and the Crows have been going very nicely over the past month. The last month for Geelong has been just as impressive, but for different reasons. In Round 14, the Cats pulled off one of its most impressive wins in recent memory, overcoming a concussion to their skipper Joel Selwood in the opening seconds, and being down to one man on the bench in the last quarter, to defeat Fremantle after a Michael Walters snap at the death missed its mark. The Cats then met the Giants at Spotless Stadium, again without Joel Selwood, and came away with the season's first draw, after Tom Hawkins kicked a behind after the siren. A comfortable win over the Brisbane Lions at the Gabba followed, before they came out on top in yet another thriller with arch-rival Hawthorn at the MCG. The Cats enter this game with plenty of well-earned confidence.
THE HISTORY Adelaide have a Geelong problem. Coach Don Pyke admitted as much after their Round 11, 22-point loss to the Cats at Simonds Stadium. Don Pyke has yet to come out on top against Chris Scott in their three encounters, but the losing streak runs deeper than that... the last time the Crows beat the Cats was in Round 17, 2013. Whichever way you read the stats, the Cats have simply had all the answers when it comes to Adelaide, be it at home or far away.
THE VENUE This is the big one for the Crows. The Adelaide Oval has once again become a fortress for the red and yellow. They've won seven of their nine games there this year, and six of them by more than 50 points. Still, Geelong aren't scared of playing in the South Australian cauldron either, running out 26-point winners the last time these sides met there.
THE VERDICT Regardless of the big ins and outs still to come, and despite the Crows' impressive last month, Geelong simply seem equipped to handle whatever Adelaide throw at them. Couple that with their tendancy to perfom well against the top teams (they're seven wins, one draw, and one loss against top ranked teams since 2011), and it's hard to tip against them, even if it's at a ground where Adelaide plays its best. They might go in favourites, but if the Crows manage to topple the Cats, it will cement their spot not only atop the premiership ladder, but in it up to their eyeballs come September... and perhaps early October.
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