Key Pie: Dayne Beams, in action against Geelong last week, is crucial to tonight's game.

Key Pie: Dayne Beams, in action against Geelong last week, is crucial to tonight's game. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

NO SWAN. No Reid. No Brown or Tarrant. Ball, Krakouer and Macaffer gone for the year, and running short on numbers, two first-gamers thrown into the deep end. Against arguably the AFL's hottest team, Adelaide, and on the Crows' home patch.

Collingwood certainly seems up against it tonight at AAMI Stadium, despite having won five games in a row, and sitting fifth on the ladder. It's not often you could boast that sort of record, or recent form, and find 19 of 24 tipsters in The Age going for the opposition, a sign of the odds stacked against the Pies.

But in this case, there might be a set of numbers that outweighs all those, and it's these. Thirteen from 14. That's Collingwood's record on the road, and it's phenomenal.

It's a standard stretching all the way back to late 2008, the one loss, incidentally, by just eight points up at the Gabba, when the Brisbane Lions were travelling a whole lot better than they are these days.

Adelaide's home track is a particular specialty. Last time Collingwood played at AAMI, in round 20, it humiliated Port Adelaide by 138 points, booting 23 goals in wet and greasy conditions, similar to what the Magpies are likely to face tonight.

That evening, among the Pies' best were the names Blair, Beams, Thomas and Pendlebury, all likely to feature prominently again, even if Dane Swan, who racked up 37 touches, won't be.

Collingwood has won its past seven games at AAMI. Its last defeat was in late 2006, at a time when Adelaide was in just as good a nick as it is now. But the Pies do it consistently all over the country. They've won their past three at Subiaco, and the past six against Sydney at ANZ Stadium.

The Magpies have had some of their most famous wins on hostile turf: the 2002 qualifying final against Port Adelaide, when they went in rank outsiders against the top-of-the-ladder Power and triumphed. Or the even more famous extra-time win over West Coast in 2007.

Collingwood's road record has always been handy, but in recent seasons has become even more formidable. A fortnight ago, it smashed Brisbane by 58 points at the Gabba. The Pies' previous foray over the border last year, three weeks after the obliteration of the Power, resulted in an 80-point demolition of Fremantle. Gold Coast was wiped by 54 points at Metricon Stadium a few weeks before that.

Indeed, during this unprecedented run of success on the road, beginning with the Magpies' upset of Adelaide in the 2008 elimination final, Collingwood has only three times won by margins of less than 20 points.

The Pies' top-order rivals can't boast anything like that strike rate. Form on the road has been an issue for all the non-Victorian contingent at some stage, while the contrast with Collingwood's local foes is even more stark.

Geelong has won 107 of 128 games over the past five-and-a-bit seasons, but the Cats have dropped five of their past 14 interstate games.

Hawthorn, discounting its "second home" of Aurora Stadium in Launceston, has won just four of its past 14 over the state border. For Carlton, it's 9-5, and Essendon, whose record interstate has bordered on farcical in the modern era, 4-11, three of those victories coming since the start of last year.

Collingwood loves getting on a plane. A score of Magpies have commented over the past few seasons about how for them it can actually provide a release, a chance to harness the camaraderie of the playing group further, and significantly, also escape at least some of the enormous and constant focus on the black-and-white mob in this town.

While clubs and coaches try hard to dismiss history as irrelevant to today, Collingwood's interstate record will be ticking over in the minds of both the Pies and their opponents this evening.

You can stake your life that Adelaide will know those numbers, and that Brenton Sanderson will have stressed the dangers of mental complacency to his men after victories as good as their past three - over Sydney, Geelong and Carlton. Particularly in the extra comfort of home, and against a side that so regularly responds well to a challenge.

Collingwood, similarly, has the confidence to have picked two first-gamers, Jamie Elliott and Marley Williams, knowing that they'll get the necessary support from teammates who know these ropes so well. Tonight will be a ripper and, missing personnel or not, Collingwood is a big chance.

The great irony in all this, of course, is the ongoing collective whinge from the rest of the football world about the Magpies' soft run on the interstate games front.

They loved the fact Collingwood was this season dealt five games out of Victoria, more than any year since 2008.

They mightn't be sniggering quite as loudly, though, if they check the record books, and especially if the Pies tonight improve that beautiful set of numbers to 14 from 15.