Geelong coach Chris Scott has rubbished suggestions Essendon are a team in disarray and backed under-pressure counterpart John Worsfold ahead of the AFL country game.
The Bombers' woeful run continued on Saturday when they handed strugglers Carlton their first win of the season, going down to the Blues by 21 points at the MCG.
Talked up as finals contenders after recruiting Jake Stringer, Devon Smith and Adam Saad, the Dons have now lost four games on the trot and sit 15th on the ladder with two wins and six losses.
Essendon's struggles have led to the blowtorch being applied to Worsfold with retired Brownlow Medallist Adam Cooney suggesting the "spiritless" Bombers weren't playing for their coach.
The third-placed Cats will start strong favourites in Saturday's annual MCG clash in support of Australia's rural community but Scott is expecting a strong response from the wounded Bombers.
"We just assume that they're going to play their best," Scott said after Geelong's 21-point victory over Collingwood on Sunday.
"I have some empathy for those internally at footy clubs that have to listen to people saying they're in disarray and don't have any method.
"I'm very confident knowing John Worsfold and the coaching staff. I know (assistant coach) Mark Harvey well; he's a very smart football person. They'd be clear on what they're trying to do.
"Just because they're not executing as well as they can, doesn't mean that they're unsure as to what they're trying to achieve. They were a finalist last year with virtually the same personnel; probably their personnel wasn't as good as it is now. We're aware that it can turn around really quickly."
The Cats will welcome back key forward Tom Hawkins from suspension but Daniel Menzel remains sidelined with a groin issue while midfielder Scott Selwood is no certainty to return from a back complaint.
"The feedback we've got is that it's not serious ... but we have had a few issues with acute back (injuries) that have been hard to predict," Scott said of Selwood.
"He just jarred his back at training; there was no contact or anything.
"He had surgery in 2011 on a back issue. They're not saying this is related but I guess if you wanted to go back a long way, there's a history there."