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Where: Etihad Stadium
When: 8.40 (GMT)
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The clash between two teams expected to figure in the lower half of the ladder grew more interesting last weekend when Gold Coast beat Richmond and Greater Western Sydney signalled it might not be the easy beat everyone thought.
For St Kilda, the road back to the finals is mapped out in a long-range plan that sees a return to the top four by 2018 and a premiership before 2020.
For Melbourne, it’s about making inroads after years of turmoil and ensuring supporters know this rebuild is on the right track.
Both have new coaches but both have on-field issues already; the Saints will be missing key midfielders Lenny Hayes, Leigh Montagna and Jack Steven, plus Sam Fisher, Sam Gilbert and Adam Schneider, while the Demons’ forward line is decimated with Chris Dawes, Mitch Clark and Jesse Hogan missing, while Colin Garland has an ankle injury and talls Mark Jamar and Max Gawn are also unavailable.
Leigh Montagna (St Kilda) – With Nick Dal Santo moving to the Kangaroos in the off-season, much of the responsability will fall on Montagna shoulder’s to make good use of the ball going forward.
Sam Fisher (St Kilda) – Has not played a minute in the pre-season, but for a backline that will be under pressure for much of 2014, expect Fisher to have some big games for the Saints.
Nick Riewoldt (St Kilda) – No matter who the Saints have around them in any given season, Riewoldt will be a danger player for them. Will be looking to at least match his excellent 2013 season.
Bernie Vince (Melbourne) Looked solid in his first hit-out for the Demons and his experience will be vital if the club is to improve from its horror season a year ago.
Jeremy Howe (Melbourne) Has shown himself to be one of the strongest overhead marks in the competition, but his utility value means he might bob up around the field in 2014.
Jack Trengrove (Melbourne) Looks set to have a big season without the added pressure of having the C next to his name.
1. The last time Melbourne beat St Kilda was in the 2006 finals. The Saints have won the past nine contests, including last year’s round 13 clash by 35 points, with Montagna – who will miss this game with suspension – picking up 35 possessions.
2. While the Saints’ recent record at Etihad Stadium sees them losing eight of 11 games there last year, the Demons’ is worse. They have lost their last 16 home-and-away games at the Docklands venue.
3. St Kilda captain Nick Riewoldt took 72 marks inside 50 in 2013. Only Collingwood spearhead Travis Cloke took more. The Demons didn’t have a single player in the top 20 of that category and will struggle again early on given their forward line injuries.
4. The Demons used the ball by foot less than any other club last season with an average of just 182 kicks per game, while the Saints averaged 205 and were ranked 10th.
5. The Saints loved to run in 2013. No other team had more running bounces than them, with a total of 398. The Demons were seventh with 277.
6. Jack Steven, who is out with a foot injury, is the highest-ranked player from either team in the AFL Official Player Ratings. Steven, the Saints’ reigning best and fairest winner, starts the season at 19th. The best-placed Demon is Nathan Jones at 87.