VENUE & TIME: MCG, Monday 11 June, 3.15pm (AEST)
HEAD TO HEAD: Played: 226, Collingwood 142, Melbourne 79, 5 draws
LAST TIME: Collingwood 19.15 (129) def Melbourne 6.5 (41), Round 12 2011 at the MCG
LAST TIME AT VENUE: As above
Collingwood might be without Scott Pendlebury (cracked tibia) for at least the fortnight, but Dane Swan – who is available after a hamstring injury – is a pretty handy replacement. Ben Reid (quadricep), Heath Shaw and Luke Rounds (both calf) will be tested ahead of Monday's match while return dates for Ben Johnson (shoulder) and Josh Thomas (foot) are yet to be set. The Magpies also have four players sidelined for the season with long-term knee injuries. Midfielder Luke Ball, defender Lachlan Keefe and utilities Andrew Krakouer and Brent Macaffer are the unlucky quartet.
Melbourne will be hopeful that James Frawley (foot), Clint Bartram (knee) and Sam Blease (groin) all pass fitness tests and make themselves available for Monday's match. Another four players – Stefan Martin (quadriceps), Jordan Gysberts (jaw), James Strauss (leg) and Leigh Williams (virus) – are also chances to play this weekend, but are more likely to return through the VFL with the club's affiliate, Casey Scorpions. Longer-term injuries have sidelined Michael Evans (back) and Liam Jurrah and Neville Jetta (both ankle) with neither of the trio expected back within the month. Ricky Petterd (hamstring) is only a week or two away from returning.
Demons Past Five:
Round 10: Win, 8.10 (58) – 6.16 (52) v Essendon, MCG
Round 9: Loss, 6.13 (49) - 15.17 (107) v Carlton, MCG
Round 8: Loss, 5.7 (37) - 21.12 (138) v Sydney, SCG
Round 7: Loss, 6.13 (49) - 15.25 (115) v Hawthorn, MCG
Round 6: Loss, 11.10 (76) - 17.17 (119) v Geelong, Simonds Stadium
Magpies Past Five:
Round 10: Win, 23.11.149 – 7.10 (52) v Gold Coast, MCG
Round 9: Win, 10.15 (75) - 6.13 (49) v Adelaide, AAMI Stadium
Round 8: Win, 14.12 (96) - 11.18 (84) v Geelong, MCG
Round 7: Win, 17.14 (116) - 8.10 (58) v Brisbane, Gabba
Round 6: Win, 15.8 (98) - 11.11 (77) v Western Bulldogs, Etihad Stadium
Melbourne showed signs of competitiveness in losses to Geelong and Carlton but despite promising patches, they lost four games in a row by more than 40 points with Sydney dishing out a 101-point thumping to Mark Neeld's side. After nine successive losses, they produced a gutsy, battling effort to down the in-form Bombers and the mood within the club will be high after such a big win.
Sunday's thumping of the Gold Coast made it seven wins in a row for Collingwood, not bad going for a side that supposedly is not playing for their coach. The Pies have not even peaked yet, making them a dangerous proposition in the second half of the season for their premiership rivals.
Jack Watts – Ever since being thrown to the backline, the 2008 No.1 draft pick has responded. It is easy to forget Watts is just 21 sometimes. He is enjoying a free role in the back half, using his football brain to good effect, and he has averaged 27 disposals in the last three weeks. He was at his best last week against the Bombers and will need to play well again if Melbourne are to have any chance.
Dayne Beams – When Luke Ball went down with a season-ending knee injury in Round 3, the pressure on Beams and Steele Sidebottom increased. And both have stepped up superbly, with Beams averaging 31 disposals in his last six matches. He has not dipped below 22 disposals in a match in 2012, highlighting his consistency.
As gutsy as Melbourne's win over Essendon was, they simply do not have the cattle to make it back-to-back wins after losing the first nine of the season.
Collingwood have been ticking along superbly in recent weeks and with seven wins in a row they just sit just percentage away from the top of the ladder.
Those victories included wins against 2011 premiers Geelong and a terrific win at AAMI Stadium in Adelaide.
Put simply, the Magpies are playing terrific football. They are free-scoring – they have averaged 29 scoring shots in their last four matches – and are only just starting to hit their peak.
The Demons were brave, committed and tough against the Bombers last week, putting in the type of performance every Melbourne fan has wanted to see all season.
Neeld has received plenty of criticism but has always said his coaching style would take a while to implement.
Expect another battling showing from them this week but grit and determination will only get you so far.
And with no wet weather predicted at the MCG, expect the 'Pies to win this one comfortably.
Collingwood by 51 points.