Pressure: Bulldog Koby Stevens is snared by Tigers Steve Morris and Troy Chaplin.

Pressure: Bulldog Koby Stevens is snared by Tigers Steve Morris and Troy Chaplin. Photo: Getty Images

More than 80,000 people will be at the MCG on Saturday. It will have about it the feel of a final, indeed in playing style it could have about it the feel of last year's grand final.

And that is a fact that should worry an already undermanned Collingwood.

The Tigers have for some time had shades of brown and yellow about their yellow and black. They have a game that lends to Hawthorn's style of hungry defence and precise ball movement.

In its three wins this season, Richmond tops the league for time in possession of the ball, is fifth for short kicks and third for uncontested marks. So it is controlling the ball.

As important, it is fourth in the amount of time the ball is in its attacking half. These are the building blocks of wins.

''Collingwood is a team that can apply pressure and shut down outlet kicks, so it will be a test for Richmond,'' a club assistant coach said.

''It's like Hawthorn-Sydney in the grand final. Hawthorn was precise last year but the Swans brought massive heat on them and the quality of Hawthorn's ball use dropped and particularly the quality of the ball use going inside 50 was poor.''

Countering that and comforting Richmond perhaps is the fact that while its record against Collingwood is poor, Hawthorn's is not.

Three rounds might be premature to make definitive pronouncements, but it is sufficient to reflect on to look for an explanation of why the Tigers have been effective.

They are structurally slightly different. Their back line has added Troy Chaplin, of course, but the move of Chris Newman to a wing means he has been replaced

with another more shut-down, defence-minded player, which has meant they only have Bachar Houli behind the ball as a player who uses the ball well but is not as diligent defensively.

More significant is the fact the player who has returned to the mix is Dylan Grimes who, despite playing only 20 games, has already shown that if he is not already he will soon be the club's best defender.

Consequently, this year they have pushed a half-forward - normally Dustin Martin or Brett Deledio - up to the midfield and swung them behind the ball as a seventh defender so they have the ''plus one'' or numerical advantage behind or at the contest.

''That's how they get off the chain,'' a club assistant coach said. ''And because those blokes are precise with their kicking, they find a loose man all the way down.''

This creates the dilemma for the opposition of how to respond, because both Deledio and Martin present contrasting problems for defenders.

If the opposition defender has stayed at home and not followed the half-forward to the contest, it creates the conundrum of how to defend them when their opponents come back at them down the field.

Martin is an architect of play and is such a clean kick he finds damaging targets. Deledio's speed and overlapping run make him dangerous.

So with Martin, defenders have to protect in front of the forwards who will lead up to him, but against Deledio they have to protect the space goal-side because of his line-breaking run and kicking penetration.

The Tigers have been winning clearances this year, which means the ball spends more time in their forward half and allows them to squeeze space and keep the ball within the 80-metre bubble coaches talk of playing in.

Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley must decide: does his defender follow Deledio or Martin up and behind the contest and potentially crowd his own forward line? Or does his defender stay home loose behind the ball?

''It's a bit of Russian roulette,'' an assistant coach said.

When the ball went deep into its defensive-50 last year, Richmond was poor at stopping other teams scoring. This year it has been better. Richmond's opponents have only goaled 24 per cent of the time (3rd in the AFL) they have gone inside 50, an improvement on last year's 27.5 per cent (which ranked them 14th).

The Tigers' defence is ground wide. They have had the third-lowest incidence of teams playing on from a mark or free this year, so they have been able to slow down the opposition's ball movement.

''Their defensive stuff has gone to a new level. They were ferocious in the way they shut the Bulldogs down. In the first couple of weeks they did it for periods but against the Dogs they sustained it,'' a coach said.

''Their attack has always allowed them to beat really good sides, but not consistently. Their defence means they are a chance of doing that more often because they will keep them in every game for longer.

''Against the Dogs, they kept going at them all day. The criticism has been that they only run one way, but they went a long way to changing that impression against the Dogs.''

It is round four. It is not a final, but will feel like it.