Winless Kangas keen to wipe smile off Bombers' faces

North Melbourne would dearly love to deliver the punch in the face that worries Essendon coach Brad Scott.

Unbeaten since their AFL Gather Round disaster against Port Adelaide, the Bombers are third and brimming with confidence.

They are coming off an outstanding win over GWS and will start unbackable favourites on Sunday against the winless Kangaroos at Marvel Stadium.

But immediately after beating the Giants, Scott noted any side that fails to maintain its intensity quickly receives a wallop in the snout from rival teams.

While Essendon boast a 10-game winning streak against their north-western Melbourne neighbours, they only beat the Kangaroos by six and nine points last season.

Their most recent meeting in round 22 proved a warning of what was to come.

Ben Cunnington.
Essendon players celebrate a close call last time out against the Kangaroos. (Morgan Hancock/AAP PHOTOS)

After an unconvincing and tight win over the Kangaroos, Essendon plummeted out of the top eight with massive losses to GWS and Collingwood.

The Essendon-North rivalry is real and the Kangaroos would relish engineering the upset of the season.

"We've seen it last year - a similar position, we come up against North, a tight game both times," Bombers defender Nic Martin said.

"It doesn't really matter about the record. The competition is on a knife's edge and anyone can beat anyone.

"We're going to have to come super-prepared for North."

Martin was high among Essendon's best against GWS with his run off half-back and he said the win showed how far they had come since the Giants destroyed them in round 23 last year by 126 points.

"That stuck with a lot of boys, going into the off-season, that performance," he said.

"It was briefly touched on, but not much - it's a long time in footy as well. We've come on leaps and bounds from that time."

Nic Martin.
Nic Martin tries to evade a tackle during the Bombers' impressive win over GWS. (Julian Smith/AAP PHOTOS)

Another feature of the GWS win was fellow defender Jake Kelly, who shut down GWS captain Toby Greene.

"He's so reliable, Jake, you know exactly what you're going to get from him and he's just super," Martin said.

"He wins his one-on-ones, he's a tough player to play on. Externally, it's not really touched on, but he's valued so greatly (among) us.

"He generally gets the top forward every single week."

For all the problems posed by Essendon's defence, the bigger issue for North will be at the other end of the ground.

The Kangaroos have bled at least 102 points in every game this season, although Essendon have not cracked the ton with their own score since round two.