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The Adelaide Crows will face the Sydney Swans on Friday night at the Adelaide Oval in what might be a sneak peak at a possible Grand Final. Obviously, the top-of-the-table Crows have been magnificent this year, but the way the Swans are playing recently, it looks like they are as hungry as ever to make up for their devastating loss in the final game of last year.
This is a crucial match for both teams but certainly more important for the Swans. The Crows will be trying to hold onto the top spot and guarantee themselves a home qualifying final, whereas Sydney can't afford to take their foot off the gas with so many other teams nipping at their heels to steal those bottom places in the eight. It's extremely tight around that area of the table with at least five teams below them with a possibility to crack into the finals places.
With the Swan's finals hopes anything but secure, coming up against the lead leaders will be a daunting thought to wrestle with. Ironically enough though, the Swans have been somewhat of a 'bogey' side for Adelaide in recent years and it will be a hoodoo that they will surely want to put an end to.
Head to head
These two clubs have had a fierce rivalry over the years, and we could be in store for another blockbuster with this game. In the previous five years, the two teams have played each other a total of seven times with Sydney winning five of those contests. Three of those wins were thrashings by more than fifty points, and in recent times it seems Sydney has definitely been the dominant side.
Even when the Crows did manage to snatch a victory, it was by the smallest of margins. They got the better of the Sydney side last year in the regular season with a 103-113 win at the Adelaide Oval, and you have to go all the way back to 2012 to remember their previous victory, when they just scraped in to grab a five point victory defeating the Swans 94-99.
Adelaide won't have forgotten the fact the Swans ended their Premiership dream last season when Sydney defeated them in a knockout semi-final at the Sydney Cricket Ground. It was a game that the Sydney team never looked like losing, as they bashed their way through to the final in what was one of the most physical games of the finals series last year.
They know how important this game is for the Swans and I'm sure they would love to dish out some sweet revenge and possibly end Sydney's chance of finals football. It would also have the added bonus of knowing that a repeat occurrence of the semi-final last year would be an absolute impossibility, by eliminating a team that has been extremely unpredictable over the last few months.
However, this is the present and not the past and it has been all Adelaide so far this season. Sydney will surely be worried and not thinking about previous games. The Crows will go into the match as favourites, and Oddschecker has found them at $1.58 to spoil the Swans afternoon who are $2.42. If you're looking for a bit more value though, the handicap is quite small and comes in with Adelaide at -9.5 goals paying $1.91. With the home ground advantage and the cheers of a packed Adelaide Oval, it would seem that the Crows should be able to get the job done and by more than two goals.
Adelaide is now $3.25 to win their third AFL Premiership, the last coming after they won consecutive flags back in 1997 and 1998. Sydney has been the most consistent side in the league over the last decade and their odds are getting shorter and shorter each week. They currently sit at $6.00 to lift the trophy and win their sixth VFL/AFL premiership.
Form this Season - Sydney
When you're talking about form this year it's pretty hard to not be blown away by Sydney. The club suffered one of the worst starts in AFL history when they lost all of their opening six matches, leaving them with zero points heading into round 7, and a staggering twenty-four points behind league leaders Adelaide. It seemed as though their season was over and finals football would have to wait until next year.
Instead of giving up though, the mighty Swans turned it all around in what has been nothing short of a miraculous comeback. In round seven they finally got a win when they came up against the Brisbane Lions. They then won the next two before succumbing to Hawthorne in round ten.
Many thought that they would once again struggle after the loss, and find it hard to gain any momentum moving forward. However, they shattered everyone's predictions and went on to win seven in a row, exploding into the eight and nestling themselves in nicely at sixth place, only 12 points behind the Crows in first.
The resilience of this squad has been quite remarkable and they will be brimming with that 'we can do anything' mentality after proving so many people wrong this season. It's a scary thought for other clubs, and the clash with the league's best team will be a great indication of just how far they can take this title charge.
Form this Season - Adelaide
The Crows had the exact opposite to the start of their season, winning all of their first six games and quickly announcing to the rest of the league that they were going to be the team to beat this year. They have been sitting at the top of the ladder all season, except for a brief period after rounds 14 and 15 when the Greater Western Sydney Giants snatched it for two weeks, until Adelaide reclaimed their deserved place as the league leaders.
They have been the most consistent performers throughout the year and it would be highly unlikely that this won't be one of the teams making up the Grand Final come September. Pundits and fans alike have shared the view that for most of the season the rest of the league has been playing for one spot, knowing that the Crows will surely take the other.
Statistically, the Crows have been better this season in almost every aspect of the game. However, Sydney is leading the way with marks averaging 89.6 per game to Adelaide's 88.3. When it comes to disposals, the Crows are 396.2 compared to 373.6.
Adelaide has been outstanding this year with their tackling and it's no surprise that their average of 71.5 outweighs Sydney's 68.3.
One of the areas where the Crows have been excellent this season is handballs and they have a significant advantage over their opponents here, averaging 178.5 while the Swans only have 164.3.
It takes points to win games though, and more often than not that is what it comes down to. This is where you can see the dominance of this Adelaide side, that just seems to be getting better and better as the season's end draws nearer. They are the only team this year to score more than 100 points per game with an astronomical average of 112.7. The only team to come close to that figure is the Geelong Cats who are on 99 per game. They are also the only team to have two players in the top 10 highest goal scorers this year, with Taylor Walker in fifth place 46 goals, and Eddie Betts in seventh on 45. A tremendous accomplishment for a club that has an array of attacking options spread out all over the park.
The Crows are averaging 16.6 goals per game, which is much higher than Adelaide's 13.1, and one of the major reasons the Crows are where they are right now. An impressive average of 29.8 scoring shots per game also illustrates the superiority in attacking class that Adelaide brings to the table. While Sydney, on the other hand, can only muster up 25.5 and will need to keep up with Adelaide's high scoring football if they have any chance of causing an upset.
Key Players - Sydney
Lance Franklin - When talking about key players for the Swans they don't come much more influential than the electric full-forward Lance "Buddy" Franklin." He has been in fine form this year for Sydney and already bagged himself 52 goals, the third highest in the league. Buddy has taken 128 marks averaging 6.7 per game as well as 16.7 disposals and 13.1 kicks. The three-time Coleman Medal winner is one of AFL's greatest goal kickers of all time and when he's firing up front, Sydney becomes an extremely dangerous side.
Josh P. Kennedy - The Swan's captain has been the rock for Sydney's comeback charge with the tireless effort he puts in across the park. He has a knack a taking control of the game, and this year has averaged a whopping 28.4 disposals and 16.6 handballs. After taking over the captaincy at the start of the season, he's been a real inspiration for the younger players. He always leads by example as his bulldozers his way through the middle and works himself into the ground each week.
Luke Parker - Stepping up to the role of Vice-Captain this year, the versatile midfielder/forward has thrived with his new responsibility and has led by example throughout the season. The talented playmaker has averaged 12.8 kicks, 12.5 handballs, 25.3 disposals and 3.8 marks so far this year. He is a tough young player and works hard defensively for the Swans, averaging 5.6 tackles per game and demonstrating the all-rounded player that he has become since joining Sydney back in 2011.
Key players - Adelaide
Rory Sloane - What a season this man is having! Without a shadow of a doubt, he is the heart of this fantastic bunch of players that Don Pyke has put together over there in South Australia. Sloane has been a Brownlow Medal contender for the majority of the year and it's obvious why with the way that he impacts the game from the starting siren. He is averaging 12.6 kicks, 11.2 handballs, 23.8 disposals, 2.9 marks and an incredible 7.6 tackles. Rory leads the way for the tackle count for Adelaide making a crazy 144 this year, 47 more than second placed Brad Crouch.
Matt Crouch - The little wonder-kid started to come into his own last year but has now become one of this side's most important assets on the park. Still so young at 22 years of age but playing with a maturity that makes you think, how good is this guy going to get? He leads the disposals count with a sensational 612 for the year and 32.2 per game. He has also averaged 13.3 kicks, 18.9 handballs, 2.9 marks and 4.6 tackles. Crouch is going to be a special player for the Crows in the future and the sky really is the limit for this remarkable talent.
Rory Laird - Another young star in the making is defender/midfielder Rory Laird. He has made 575 disposals and taken 93 marks this season showing his dominance up the middle, and is the engine room that pushes the Crows into their attacking positions. He's averaged 14.8 kicks, 15.4 handballs, 30.3 disposals, 4.9 marks and 2.4 tackles this season. Laird is an integral part of the team and one that Sydney will have to keep an eye on if they want to stop Adelaide surging forward on the counter when the sides meet.
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