One of the biggest rivalries in the AFL will provide an enthralling contest, with both teams likely to give it all until the final siren.
Essendon will want a win to stay in touch with the top four, while four points for Carlton will consolidate their position on the ladder, and perhaps provide the foundation for their own top four push.
It was always going to be tough for the Dons against Sydney last week, and tough it was.
They trailed the whole game, with the result looking even worse thanks to a six-goal last quarter to the Swans.
There are fears of a typical mid-season collapse, with the Bombers losing three of their last four games, including a shock home loss to Brisbane.
Essendon need to right the ship this week. If they do, they’ll have a much easier home game against the Suns before the bye.
If they let this match slip, that comfortable match next week becomes much nervier.
Some more positive news for Essendon, with it looking likely that Michael Hurley (ankle) and Ben Howlett (shoulder) will be back this week, and Leroy Jetta (ankle) also to have scans.
Unfortunately, Courtenay Dempsey will probably be given the week off, after a rib fracture/punctured lung scare last week.
Hurley could prove the difference against Carlton, with strong marking capabilities in the attacking 50, and doubling well as a back if needed.
19-year-old ruckman Joe Daniher will make his debut tonight as the sixth Daniher to play for the Bombers, following in the footsteps of his father Anthony, uncles Terry – the 1984-85 premiership captain – Neale and Chris and brother Darcy.
Carlton’s 94-point thumping/training drill against GWS last week was nothing more than expected, with the players now hopefully full of confidence and form.
They have now won six of their last seven, and it looks like Mick Malthouse finally has the Blues at their full potential.
If they win this they only have to get through Hawthorn before the bye. If they lose, the game against Hawthorn becomes much more crucial.
All that stands between Andrew Carazzo (calf) and suiting up against Essendon is a fitness test, which he should probably pass. Robert Warnock also undergoes a test for a foot injury.
Unfortunately, Carlton are still missing a few players to the injury table, with Andrew McInnes (knee) and Kane Lucas (hamstring) out for one more week and Nick Graham (knee) and David Ellard (calf) out for two.
Approximately halfway in the season, both teams are sitting in the middle of the table.
The winner will be one step closer to cementing finals football. The loser will find themselves slipping towards the bottom of the eight.
A potentially fiery clash between two teams that love to hate each other; strap yourself in for Friday night football from 7.50pm AEST!