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Sunday’s AFL Best: Bombers, Crows to come out on top

Sat, Apr 29, 2:04pm by Senior Writer

Sunday’s AFL matches present us with three very intriguing contests. The two most interesting from a punting perspective are Essendon’s clash with Melbourne at Etihad Stadium and the clash between two of the three unbeaten teams, Adelaide and Richmond.

Essendon v Melbourne, Etihad Stadium, Sunday April 20, 1:10pm AEST

With three of the finalists from 2016 currently languishing near the bottom of the ladder, the door is firmly opened for teams like Essendon and Melbourne to make a rapid improvement in 2017 and earn themselves a taste of the September action.

The Bombers’ season started well, then went through a two-week lull before they ground out an 18-point win over listless Collingwood on Anzac Day. With some momentum back, the Bombers are $1.75 favourites to win this match despite coming off the five-day break.

Melbourne have only had a day longer to recover from their disappointing loss to Richmond on Monday night, where they led for much of the match, only to be overrun late. Injuries were costly for them there, and while they get Jordan Lewis back for this match, they have lost back-up ruckman Jake Spencer through injury while key forward Jesse Hogan will also miss.

In all the Demons made five changes, with 193cm Cam Pederson charged with ruck duties. They are $2.10 outsiders.

Much has been made of Melbourne’s poor record at Etihad, having won just two games here in their past 27, but the Bombers’ record, albeit influenced by the events of last year, is not much better with just one win in their past 16 here.

The key factor is not history, but rather the relative strength of the two sides. The Demons had high hopes of a strong season, but they still lack the depth to cope with the injuries and suspensions they have endured.

Interestingly, this is Essendon’s first game at this ground this year, but you’d think they’d be happy to be back at ‘home’, where their faster game style should be suited.

The Bombers should be winning here, but not by a lot, se we are happy to take the 1-39 margin.

Suggested Bet: Essendon to win by 1-39 at $2.40

Adelaide v Richmond, Adelaide Oval, Sunday April 30, 4:40pm AEST

Here’s a little stat for you. Richmond have not been top of the ladder in 484 matches, a streak going back to 1995. A win in this match, and a loss to Geelong, would see the Tigers break that streak, which is the third longest all time of any team not being top of the ladder.

But while the Richmond bandwagon may be gaining considerable momentum after five straight wins to start the season, the bookies think the train will be stopping at Adelaide Oval, with the Crows a very short price to continue their own winning streak.

The Crows are $1.16 to win this match, with the Tigers out to $5.40. The line has blown out to 36.5 in Richmond’s favour with more support for Adelaide during the week.

The Tigers’ record at Adelaide Oval is not too bad. They have won two of five matches there and one of the two against the Crows. While much has been made of the Tigers’ attack this year averaging more than 100 points per game, for the first time since 2008, their defence has been equally impressive.

The Tigers of 2017 are statistically a four-goal better defensive side than 2016 and have been particularly good late in games, conceding less than two goals per final quarter on average.

That will be important against an Adelaide side who are running rampant in attack, average an incredible 133 points a game at the moment. How Alex Rance leads the Tigers’ defence against the likes of Walker, Betts and co will be crucial to the Tigers’ hopes of pulling off an upset.

I’m not sure they can do it, but don’t think the margin will be as clear cut as the market indicates. Happy to be on the Crows under 39 points at $2.40.

Suggested Bet: Crows to win by 1-39: $2.40

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