Injury test for Pies in tough AFL run home

Michael Ramsey

Could this be the week Collingwood's AFL injury woes finally prove too much?

The second-placed Magpies face a massive test on Sunday when they take on old rivals Essendon in a high-stakes clash at the MCG.

In a season where things have finally clicked for previously besieged coach Nathan Buckley, injuries threaten to cost the Magpies a deep run in September.

Star midfielder Adam Treloar (hamstring) is no certainty to play again this season. Daniel Wells (foot) is done for the year while Jamie Elliott and Darcy Moore are set to return from hamstring injuries through the VFL in coming weeks.

Key defender Lynden Dunn - so often the glue in the Magpies' backline - is the latest casualty, diagnosed with a torn ACL following last week's win over Gold Coast.

Fifth-gamer Brody Mihocek, who has played forward in each of his previous games, looms as a likely replacement.

Collingwood emerged 49-point winners when the two sides met on Anzac Day and have dropped just two games since.

Essendon lost their next three games and appeared to be in crisis when they suddenly sacked assistant coach Mark Neeld.

But plenty has since changed. The Bombers have won five of their last six games and remain in the hunt for a top-eight finish, adding to the sense that Sunday's clash is a danger game for Collingwood.

A loss to the Bombers, while hardly fatal to their top-four hopes, would leave the Magpies vulnerable ahead of a hellish run home which includes games against West Coast, North Melbourne, Richmond, Sydney and Port Adelaide.

"As we've done all year, we'll replace like-for-like and trust that the 22 players who take the field are going to be able to play their role in our structure and that we'll be able to continue to play our way," Buckley said on Thursday.

"I've got a lot of faith in our back six. They're assisted by the pressure that our forwards and mids can put on the ball ... and being able to play the game in our front half."

The Bombers will be hopeful young midfield star Zach Merrett can continue his rich vein of form.

Merrett has racked up big disposal numbers in recent weeks but the 22-year-old said quality, not quantity, has been his focus.

"I've been building and influencing games more so than just getting possessions this year, which has been a big shift and something I've been focusing on as a leader of the club," he said.

"I've tried to adjust that a little bit and obviously I've played on some really good players at the start of the year that taught me a lot of things."