FIVE weeks ago at home, the Crows comfortably beat the Dockers by 28 points. That day, Rising Star winner Daniel Talia kept Matthew Pavlich in check, and two of the Dockers' very best, Aaron Sandilands and Nathan Fyfe, didn't play. Tonight, again at AAMI Stadium, it will be different.
Talia has a broken arm and won't play, but Sandilands and Fyfe will. Since that victory, the Crows have lost two games and won two.
Real Footy finals: Adelaide v Fremantle
It's week two of footy finals and Michael Gleeson, Robert Walls and Emma Quayle take you through the team line-ups for Friday night's clash.
The Dockers, however, have not missed a beat, winning all four games by an average of six goals.
So the Crows need to be switched on and learn a lesson from last Saturday night, when the complacent Cats got smashed, as they underestimated just how fierce and frantic Fremantle can be.
The Dockers pulled up healthy in body and mind after their Geelong triumph. It can't be undersold just how much confidence the Dockers would have gained from that win. It was huge. But it was impressive how the purple haze took it in their stride. As coach Ross Lyon said: ''Just another step in taking the team to where they want to go.''
Fremantle's midfield is the best it has been all year. Sandilands is rucking well and, more importantly, it is winning the clearances. Stephen Hill, Fyfe and David Mundy are quality inside and outside players; they win contested ball but their run and finish is setting up plenty of scoring opportunities. Ryan Crowley is keeping control of whichever midfield star he is assigned, while Clancee Pearce and Tendai Mzungu cover enormous ground to help out the defence. They also relish the hard hitting of bodies.
In defence, the Dockers like to run three talls. Alex Silvagni did a fine job replacing the injured Luke McPharlin last week, while Zac Dawson kept Tom Hawkins goalless. This enables the mobile Michael Johnson to sweep across the half-back line, blocking forward advances.
Adam McPhee's confidence is at an all-time high and his attack on the ball, especially in the air, has been first rate. And the low-key Paul Duffield continues to be the Dockers' best defensive rebounder.
Up forward, Pavlich, Chris Mayne, Hayden Ballantyne and Michael Walters are all kicking and creating goals, and Matt de Boer leads the way by locking the ball in with red-hot chasing and ferocious tackling. The class of Walters shouldn't be underestimated. He is not fast, but he is a quick thinker, clean ball handler and finishes off his work with aplomb.
The Crows kick a lot and handball a little. They like to kick long, take contested marks and rely on marks being taken in their forward 50 to kick goals.
In the home-and-away season they were the second-highest scoring team, behind Hawthorn. Sam Jacobs has been the best tap ruckman for the season. His work has helped the Crows excel at winning clearances and contested ball in close, tight situations.
To have jumped from 14th to second is a credit to new coach Brenton Sanderson. But the reality of finals pressure hit home last week, when the experienced Swans put the stranglehold on the Crows. As good as the Crows have been, they have an unhealthy reliance on too few. Jacobs, Taylor Walker and Kurt Tippett up forward and Scott Thompson and Patrick Dangerfield in the midfield have carried this team. The Swans were good enough and clever enough to lessen the influence of the Adelaide stars. None of the five guns fired. Especially disappointing were the two big boys up forward. They normally kick five goals a game between them. Last week, it was one.
There's no doubt Lyon will target the Crows stars again, so it is vital that others step up. Rory Sloane was good last week, but has to be even better. Up forward, Ian Callinan, Jared Petrenko, Jason Porplyzia and Graham Johncock have to hit the scoreboard. They didn't last week, with their team scoring a paltry five goals from 59 forward-50 entries.
The Crows need to be conscious of using all their forwards and not just bombing long to Walker and Tippett. So the midfielders need to lower their eyes and take a fraction longer with the ball to ensure they spot up leading players inside the forward 50. In the absence of Talia, Ben Rutten should be made responsible for the hot Pavlich. As the Crows will be short of a tall defender, Sandilands may be asked to rest in the goal square.
After Dangerfield and Thompson, the Crows fall off markedly in the midfield. If both are restricted to good games instead of very good games, the Crows will struggle. So expect Crowley to take Thompson, and Fyfe to go head-to-head with Dangerfield. Silvagni and Dawson kept Podsiadly and Hawkins goalless last week. If they can do that again on Walker and Tippett, it will be game over.
Brent Reilly is the Crows' most effective defensive rebounder. Ballantyne will be set to keep him busy and limit his influence.
The Dockers are a selfless team and will rely on 22 players fulfilling their role. They hunt in packs and run hard to outnumber the opposition. They are organised at the stoppages and keep a forward structure in place so that when they get a fast clearance, they always have targets to aim at.
Fremantle: Stephen Hill. The speedy left-footer can be a game breaker as he makes lots of 80-metre plays. If tagged, he is willing to reverse roles and hunt a Dangerfield type if required.
Adelaide: Patrick Dangerfield. He dominates in so many areas for his team. He is No.1 for contested possessions, long kicks and inside-50s. He is No.2 for disposals and clearances. Dangerfield is a star, whose inspirational plays could be the difference.
Fremantle to win. The Dockers' continual harassment to wear down the Crows' lesser lights means the stars have to shine. And that won't happen due to the strong negating tactics that will be employed by the Dockers.
Fremantle by 20 points.