'''1. ''' Friday night will illustrate once and for all just how strong Collingwood's mental stranglehold is over Sydney. The Magpies have beaten the Swans the past 11 times in a row and seven of those victories have been achieved at the venue of their upcoming preliminary final encounter - ANZ Stadium. It remains the biggest current hoodoo in the AFL, but if ever the Swans had a chance to break through, this would be it. Sydney heads into this clash having enjoyed a week off courtesy of their stirring qualifying-final win over Adelaide while the Magpies make the trip up to Sydney just six days after a gritty 13-point over West Coast. What a stage it would be for Sydney to finally get one over Collingwood with a spot in this year's grand final up for grabs. But if the Magpies manage to better the Swans yet again on Friday night, don't be surprised if Sydney never beat their bogey side again!

'''2. ''' The football world is still reeling from the untimely death of John McCarthy and there is no club still in the premiership race feeling the effects of that tragedy more than Collingwood. It was unclear what kind of effect the tragedy would have on Collingwood heading into their semi-final against West Coast but the Magpies ensured it wouldn't be an adverse one as they accounted for the Eagles by 13 points in a gutsy performance. But the raw emotion of McCarthy's passing came to the fore again on Thursday when most of the Collingwood playing list attended the funeral in Sorrento on Thursday. Can Collingwood find that mental resolve again to put their sorrow and anguish to one side and perform on the big stage? It would be a magnificent story if they could. But it will be a tough ask given the Magpies' usual training schedule was also disrupted with the two-hour bus ride to Sorrento and back again to Melbourne airport to head up to Sydney. But McCarthy's death put life, and football, into perspective and should not be trivialised to the point where it is seen more about what impact it will have on his former club this September rather than what it actually is - the heart-wrenching loss of a young person with his whole life ahead of him.

'''3. ''' Collingwood and Adelaide are about to find out if they can avoid paying the ultimate price for playing injured players in finals. While Sydney and Hawthorn are doubtlessly carrying a few blokes with niggles here and there into their respective preliminary finals against Collingwood and Adelaide, it is the Magpies and Crows who are taking the most high-profile casualties into battle this weekend. Collingwood named Chris Dawes and Adelaide did likewise with Jared Petrenko. After injuring his knee against the Eagles last week, Dawes came back on the ground and struggled badly to move fluently while Petrenko dislocated his shoulder in the dying stages of Adelaide's win over Fremantle and was inconsolable after the match with the prospect of a premature end to his finals campaign firmly at the forefront of his mind. Both have made seemingly miraculous recoveries to be named by their respective teams but if they do both play, they better be right. There is nowhere to hide at this time of the year and history is littered with injured players being exposed badly in finals. For Collingwood's and Adelaide's sakes, hopefully Dawes and Petrenko don't become the latest chapter in the book of 'Finals Injury Disaster Stories'.

'''4. ''' Can Adelaide pull off one of the biggest finals upsets in modern history? That's what they're going to have to do if they want to qualify for the third grand final in their 22-year history. Their clash with Hawthorn at the MCG is shaping up as genuine David v Goliath encounter. Even though this is a clash between the teams that finished first and second on the ladder after 23 rounds, not many believe the Crows can stop the brown-and-gold juggernaut with ''Betfair'' quoting them as a $6.80 shot. But you don't have to look too far back in history to see that miracles can happen in September. Who could forget the 2008 Grand Final when Hawthorn trumped a Geelong side that had only lost one game for the year prior to that match? The Crows will have to play out of their skins, and then some, if they plan on achieving a similar result. Don't be surprised if coach Brenton Sanderson mentions other upset finals results to his players in the lead-up to this clash such as the 1999 preliminary final between Essendon and Carlton.

'''5. ''' Can Adelaide stop Lance Franklin? Without Rising Star Daniel Talia due to injury, the task of minding arguably the game's best player will almost certainly fall on the shoulders of veteran backman Ben Rutten. Rutten did a great job on Matthew Pavlich last week, although the Dockers skipper did appear to be badly hampered by an Achilles complaint, but Franklin at the MCG is one of the most daunting jobs any defender could wish to undertake. Sanderson said during the week that a team effort will be required to nullify Franklin, which makes sense given the Hawthorn star will be supremely confident further up the ground against the battle-weary legs of Rutten. But if 'Buddy' is 'feeling it' on Saturday, the entire Adelaide playing list may struggle to contain him.


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