Big names returning for Geelong in AFL

John Salvado and Roger Vaughan
Geelong coach Chris Scott is confident the Cats can snap their mid-season bye AFL hoodoo

Three successive matches in three different states with a host of big names returning from injury could well end up defining Geelong's 2018 AFL campaign.

The seventh-placed Cats will start as red-hot favourites against the faltering Western Bulldogs at Etihad Stadium on Friday night.

Chris Scott's team then face successive Thursday night encounters away to Sydney and Adelaide.

Win at least two of them and a top-four finish remains firmly on the agenda.

Geelong have not won coming off the mid-season bye since 2012.

"You can crunch the numbers a lot and try to find a pattern in things but when you go back to 2012 and then you've got a completely different list, I'm not sure how much relevance there is," Scott said.

"But what we did do is just address the fact that the numbers are what they are and we shouldn't run away from it.

"... if we don't play well on Friday night the assessment from most parts will be 'you don't play well after the bye' (and that's) probably fair enough.

"We won't be making excuses based on our preparation this time."

The Cats will welcome back Harry Taylor and Cam Guthrie, while Quinton Narkle will make his AFL debut.

The Bulldogs now appear certain to be the first team since Adelaide in 2000 to miss the finals in successive years after winning a premiership.

They will regain Matt Suckling from his achilles injury and Brad Lynch joins Narkle as an AFL debutant.

Clever forward Nakia Cockatoo and ruckman Zac Smith will play at least one more game in the VFL for Geelong before being considered for senior recalls.

Daniel Menzel and Scott Selwood are also on the verge of AFL returns.

Complicating matters still further on when to inject the returnees back into the top flight is the Cats' VFL team playing a couple of days later than the AFL side on each of the coming three weekends.

"Obviously we've put a lot of thought into it but it's a bit more nuanced because bringing a big group like that back into your team can be destabilising," Scott said.

"The positive news is that all of those guys are playing footy."

The slumping Bulldogs have dropped their past five matches to plummet out of finals calculations but Scott said they did plenty right in last weekend's two-point loss to North Melbourne under the roof at Etihad Stadium.

"They looked pretty sharp. They play the ground well," he said.

"They've improved a lot from where they were five or six weeks ago, making it hard for the opposition to score.

"Their good players are coming back into their own."