AFL guns Cripps, Bont primed for showdown

Carlton star Patrick Cripps will be a focus of attention for the Western Bulldogs.
Carlton star Patrick Cripps will be a focus of attention for the Western Bulldogs.

Football purists are guaranteed a taste of modern prototype midfielders Patrick Cripps and Marcus Bontempelli going head-to-head in the centre square on Sunday night.

The powerful on-ballers' individual performances could go a long way to deciding the winner of Carlton's clash with the in-form Western Bulldogs in neutral territory at Metricon Stadium.

But the direct battle might just be an entree rather than the full three-course meal.

"I do like the idea of them going head to head," Blues coach David Teague teased this week.

"But we've also got to do what we think is going to win the game.

"Early on I think we'll see that (match-up), depending on what the Bulldogs do with Cripps."

Bontempelli was held to just 12 disposals and two clearances - well below his previous season averages of 18.5 and 4.5 - by Luke McDonald last week in a small win for the North Melbourne tagger.

But the Bulldogs were collectively dominant through the midfield in a performance that propelled Luke Beveridge's side to a third straight win and into the top eight for the first time this season.

Bailey Smith has recovered from a head knock that limited his output last week and Lachie Hunter is back from suspension to bolster a Bulldogs on-ball division that has Tom Liberatore and Jack Macrae in hot form, putting Teague and the Blues on notice.

"They've got a good mix in there," Teague said.

"You've got to make sure you don't put too much focus onto one player, but you obviously want to limit someone with (Bontempelli's) capabilities."

Carlton also need to find a way to score against a stingy Dogs defence that has kept GWS, Sydney and the Kangaroos to scores of fewer than 40 points in the past three weeks.

Key forward Harry McKay was named in the Blues' side despite battling illness in recent days and will want to fire alongside Mitch McGovern and Levi Casboult.

The three talls struggled last week, going goalless and managing just 16 disposals between them.

"We want to play an attacking style and get the ball in there and that's our challenge," Teague said.

"We need to be able to win the ball in the contest, particularly through the midfield, they're quite strong in that area, then give our forwards a look one-on-one.

"The more times we do that, the greater our potential to score is."

Louis Butler will become the Bulldogs' third debutant of 2020 when he lines up against Carlton.

The running defender was a third-round selection (No.53 overall) in last year's national draft.

The Blues made just one change, dropping Sam Philp for Matt Kennedy.

Australian Associated Press