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Pies target top-four berth against Bombers

A potential top-four finish for Collingwood or a confidence-boosting launching pad into the AFL finals for Essendon: the stakes will be high at the MCG when round 23 kicks off with a blockbuster clash between the traditional rivals.

It's a fitting start to a grandstand finish to the home-and-away season that has 11 clubs vying for spots in the eight with multiple permutations to play out across the weekend.

The fifth-placed Pies can finish as high as third with a win on Friday night if West Coast or Richmond slip up.

The seventh-placed Bombers will finish between sixth and eighth after securing their finals berth with last week's win over Fremantle.

Essendon will be desperate to play well and enter September confident they can secure a first finals win since their elimination final victory against Melbourne in 2004.

But they'll have to do it with a severely undermanned line-up, with John Worsfold's team rocked by injuries to skipper Dyson Heppell, Orazio Fantasia, Jake Stringer, David Zaharakis and Zac Clarke.

Brandon Zerk-Thatcher's omission made it six changes, with Tom Bellchambers, Jayden Laverde, Cale Hooker, Josh Begley, Dylan Clarke and Tom Jok, who will debut, coming into the side.

Collingwood lost Steele Sidebottom to a ruptured testicle, while Darcy Moore returns from a hamstring injury.

Securing a double chance is a huge carrot for Nathan Buckley's men as last year's beaten grand finalists aim to hit the finals with winning momentum.

"We know that our footy stands up when we're up and about, so we're hoping we can keep finding our best footy and see how far we can go," assistant coach Garry Hocking said.

"But we don't have a focus beyond the Bombers because we can't control all of the permutations and we need to keep our form going against a really good side that will challenge us with the ball and around stoppage."

If Collingwood can do their bit and make it four wins on the trot they still face an anxious wait to learn their fate.

The Pies need Hawthorn to upset the Eagles at Optus Stadium on Saturday night or ladder leaders Brisbane to beat the Tigers at the MCG on Sunday to jump into the top four.

If neither of those results occur they will finish fifth and could host the Bombers in an elimination final in the first week of the finals.

Depending on results, the final make up of the top eight won't be known until Port Adelaide host Fremantle in the last game of the round on Sunday, with the Western Bulldogs, the Hawks, Adelaide and the Power all vying for eighth spot.