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Opposition watch: Essendon

Bolton on injuries and Essendon Brendon Bolton spoke to the media today as the boys prepare for the Round 3 clash against Essendon.

Carlton will strive to build on last week’s performance against Melbourne when it revisits its long-standing rivalry with Essendon this weekend.

The Blues return to the MCG for the third consecutive time on Sunday and while the Bombers will have their eye on a third-straight win, Carlton will hope to record its first.

In the lead-up to the match, Blues youngster Jack Silvagni said the Round 3 clash would be another “challenge” on the big stage.

“We know that the Bombers are coming off two really good wins against the Hawks and the Lions over there (in Brisbane)," Silvagni said.

“For us it presents another challenge and we’ll be embracing it with open arms.”

Across the 244-game rivalry, Carlton leads Essendon 122 wins to 116, with six occasions resulting in a draw.

The final match of the 2016 season marks the most recent battle between the teams, where Essendon took the upper hand to claim a 24-point victory. 

During that clash, the Blues finished with 16 more inside 50s than their opponents, but struggled to convert their opportunities onto the scoreboard. 

Matthew Wright booted three majors to be the leading goalkicker in navy blue, but at the opposite end, Bomber Joe Daniher enjoyed a five-goal outing alongside teammates Kyle Langford and Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti who combined for seven goals. 

With Daniher entering Sunday’s hit-out after booting three goals in each of Essendon’s first two matches this season, the Blues will again have their hands full in defence. 

But the prominent forward won’t be the only worry for Carlton’s backs, with young Bomber Orazio Fantasia also in striking form. The silky small forward has already managed nine goals in 2017 and will look to hit the scoreboard again on Sunday. 

To keep Essendon’s scoreline under wraps, the Blues will have to continue their impressive work in centre clearances which has them ranked equal fifth in this category with an average of 17 per game. 

But they’ll also need to keep a watchful eye on youngster Zach Merrett who hurt the Blues last year with 34 disposals and will head into Sunday’s match on the back of a 32-possession performance against Brisbane.

On approach to the 245th meeting between the arch-enemies, Essendon coach John Worsfold said his side would expect the Blues to come out firing.

“Carlton will be out there to play their best footy and we saw on the weekend how good that can be,” Worsfold told the media on Tuesday. 

“We just (need to) meet that head on and play our footy.”

Carlton will hope for another strong performance from captain Marc Murphy, who missed last year’s Round 23 encounter with injury.

On the back of two 30-plus disposal games, Worsfold was wary of Murphy’s influence.

“A lot of our planning last year was around the impact Cripps can have at stoppages but the difference now for us is that Murphy is back (and) playing really well,” Worsfold said.

“So they’ve (Carlton) got a very good midfield which will test us out." 

Carlton takes on Essendon at the MCG on Sunday afternoon from 3:20pm and with the Madden Cup up for grabs, there’ll be more than just four points to play for.