Ever since becoming ‘premiership favourites’, nothing has gone right for Carlton. Since they beat Collingwood in round three, they have only beaten GWS, Melbourne and Fremantle – but they were unconvincing, and raised more questions in the process.

Injuries have been a factor, but in a year where Collingwood and West Coast have been hit as badly yet are still winning on a regular basis, it’s clear that teams that are genuinely aiming for a top four berth cannot use injuries as an excuse. The teams that are good enough are overcoming the issues, the question for Carlton is simply: are they good enough?

They have the pieces, but something is not right in the placement. Chris Judd, as expected, has been playing well, but the potential problems regarding Carlton were never going to be about Chris Judd. Carlton the team needs to step up tonight, not the individuals, and if they fail to do so, coach Brett Ratten’s job will be under extreme pressure.

One thing we know about the Cats is that they are good enough, but it is something we have seen very little of in 2012. Geelong’s key stats are down in general, but they still find themselves in the eight with a 6-4 record. They may appear to be coasting, but they are doing what is needed to win, and with this Geelong side, that is normally more than enough.

Key Matchups

Carlton’s Small Forwards vs Geelong’s Rebounding Defenders

It’s where most game plans against Geelong begin, but it is one of the hardest things to achieve in footy. Carlton must stop the defensive run from Corey Enright, Matthew Scarlett, Harry Taylor and others.

The Cats midfield loves getting back and helping out the back half, but it is these three that do it consistently. If they get off the hook, they will control the game and Carlton will be out of the contest before they realise it.

Eddie Betts, Jeff Garlett and Andrew Walker must chase, tackle and harass at every opportunity. When the Cats are at their best, their ball use is quick and precise. Pressuring the ball carrier is Carlton’s best chance at slowing the Cats down.

The Midfield Battle

Carlton may be desperately missing Marc Murphy, but it’s time others stepped up. Mitch Robinson has been inconsistent, performing at a best on ground level some week, then becoming completely ineffective in others. He’s one who can lift, but it is unfair to single him out.

Kade Simpson, Ed Curnow, Brock McLean and Dennis Armfield must lift against the likes of Joel Selwood, Jimmy Bartel, Joel Corey, Paul Chapman and James Kelly. If they fail to do so, Geelong will have an easy task tonight.

Final Say

The sad state of reality right now for Carlton is that they are not playing good football, and are a realistic chance of being outside the eight once the round has finished.

Because of this, expect them to throw everything at the Cats, but Geelong should be able to respond to any challenge the Blues can muster.

Geelong by 21 points

ES – Fri Jun 08, 7:50pm

B: Christopher Yarran, Michael Jamison, Matthew Watson
HB: Bryce Gibbs, Lachlan Henderson, Nick Duigan
C: Zach Tuohy, Chris Judd, Kade Simpson
HF: Mitch Robinson, Matthew Kreuzer, Andrew Walker
F: Jeffrey Garlett, Shaun Hampson, Eddie Betts
Foll: Robert Warnock, Brock McLean, David Ellard
I/C: Dennis Armfield, Aaron Joseph, Andrew Collins, Joshua Bootsma
Emg: Kane Lucas, Andrew McInnes, Edward Curnow
In: Matthew Kreuzer, Lachlan Henderson, Nick Duigan
Out: Paul Bower, Heath Scotland (Calf), Edward Curnow

Geelong Cats
B: Matthew Scarlett, Tom Lonergan, Josh Hunt
HB: Corey Enright, Harry Taylor, David Wojcinski
C: Taylor Hunt, Joel Selwood, Paul Chapman
HF: Mathew Stokes, Tom Hawkins, Mitch Duncan
F: James Kelly, James Podsiadly, Steve Johnson
Foll: Trent West, Joel Corey, Jimmy Bartel
I/C: Andrew Mackie, Steven Motlop, Cameron Guthrie, Orren Stephenson
Emg: Tom Gillies, Jesse Stringer, Billie Smedts
In: Joel Corey, Corey Enright, David Wojcinski, Tom Hawkins, Steven Motlop
Out: Tom Gillies, Jesse Stringer, Billie Smedts, Jordan Schroder, Lincoln McCarthy
Milestones: David Wojcinski – 200 games

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