Luke Beveridge concedes the Western Bulldogs have left themselves little room for error if they want to feature in the AFL finals.
The Bulldogs are among five teams fighting for the last position in the top-eight, and will need to upset their nemesis Melbourne at Marvel Stadium on Saturday night to continue their momentum.
Last week’s 28-point triumph over St Kilda was a welcome return to form for Beveridge’s Bulldogs.
But the Demons, who have been below their best, have dispatched the Bulldogs in their last two outings, including last year’s grand final demolition.
Melbourne backed up their second-half blitz in last year’s decider in Perth by crushing the Bulldogs by 26 points in the opening game of 2022.
“When you get to the pointy end, there’s not much wriggle room when you’re in our situation,” Beveridge said on Wednesday.
“Ultimately, whether it’s luck or the sands of time trickling out in your favour I’m not sure – but (results are) well within our control, if we can keep winning.
“We’ll just focus in on a huge challenge for us, when you consider our last two outings against this opposition.
“We’ll need to be at our best to trouble them and win the game.”
Aaron Naughton’s return after a bout of COVID-19 is a major boost for the Bulldogs.
He will again team up with fellow forward Josh Bruce following the key forward’s first game in almost a year last week.
But Melbourne have more than handy inclusions of their own, with champion midfielder Clayton Oliver back after missing last week’s win against Port Adelaide with a thumb injury.
Key defender Harrison Petty is also back, with Adam Tomlinson and Toby Bedford making way for the premiership duo.
Demons coach Simon Goodwin is prepared for the Bulldogs to throw everything at them.
“If anyone saw their game against St Kilda, they’d say all their strengths were back on show,” Goodwin said on Wednesday.
“Their midfield was really dominant, they had that explosive handlball game out of stoppage and they were able to hit the scoreboard from that part of the ground.
“We know what they’re about, the Western Bulldogs, we’ve played them a lot over the last couple of years.
“They’re always great games of footy, they challenge us in a whole range of different areas and they look like they’re back in their best form.”