Collingwood has elected to throw Marley Williams back into the spotlight for Friday's night clash against Carlton, convinced the 20-year-old is mentally and physically ready for his return to football.
The Magpies were prompted to recall Williams for his first game of the season after defenders Alex Fasolo (toe and foot) and Alan Toovey (hamstring) failed to overcome injuries.
Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley said this week the club had been impressed by how Williams had handled being physically targeted by Essendon's VFL team in his return last week, just days after being handed a 12-month suspended jail term for grievous bodily harm.
Marley Williams. Photo: Getty Images
In a showdown building in significance, the Pies also rewarded midfielder Sam Dwyer for his solid form at the lower level, while Carlton midfield leader Andrew Carrazzo will finally make his return to replace the injured Chris Yarran.
The Pies opted not to recall full-back Nathan Brown to help shut down Carlton's key forwards, Jarrad Waite and Lachie Henderson.
Carlton coach Mick Malthouse pushed some hype of his own on to his former club by suggesting Buckley's team had been the best of any in the competition in the past three rounds, with wins over Richmond by 38 points, North Melbourne (35) and Essendon (23).
"They are a very good side in great form," he said on Thursday. "They are running as good as anyone going around at the moment and I think that's the thing you enjoy most, certainly in coaching ... that's the great test about this [game].
"Collingwood are now in fourth position and probably over the last three weeks have all the indicators of being No. 1 in the competition."
Encompassing the victories over the Tigers, Roos and Bombers, Champion Data has the Pies ranked highly in several key areas of attack and defence, and their pressure on the opposition has been instrumental, sitting second for tackles.
The Blues, meanwhile, have managed to re-route their season - after losing the first four matches - with wins against the Western Bulldogs and West Coast.
But the burning question this week has been whether Malthouse's team has gained enough confidence in that short period to continue the history of upsets that exists between the two arch rivals.
"I don't know if we've got a massively big step that's required," he said. "We've just got to make sure that all the bits and pieces that we [had] been found out about over the first few weeks - and we've cemented a few of them down - can we keep going?"
Malthouse said his team was playing with more confidence. "I can't tell you where it came from ... maybe it's a belief they have in themselves.''
Dale Thomas' first game against many of his 2010 Collingwood premiership teammates has been an anticipated fixture ever since he accepted a lucrative offer to link with Carlton via free agency.
The build-up this week has been intense, and Malthouse said the media had played a significant role in building the storyline into a "sideshow" disproportionate to its actual bearing on the result.
He acknowledged the situation could affect the preparation of certain players, but was confident Thomas would not let the occasion affect his performance.