The four questions which will determine who wins the Collingwood vs. GWS preliminary final

The first preliminary final will be a repeat of 2019 when minor premier Collingwood hosts Greater Western Sydney at the MCG.

It was the Magpies who got the better of the Giants when the two sides met way back in Round 9, but since then, Adam Kingsley's team holds a 12-4 record and has emerged as a genuine premiership chance.

Here are the four questions which will determine who wins this do-or-die game and advances to the Grand Final:

Can the Magpies repel the Giants' surge?

You'll notice a sea of green when you cast your eyes over Collingwood's column in Champion Data's 'Premiership Standards' matrix -- and rightly so, they do just about everything well -- but one area of concern, or red, is opposition scores per inside 50.

The Magpies produced a defensive masterclass against the Demons in the first week of finals, but the Giants pose a totally different challenge. For one, they are a far more efficient offensive side. They love to attack from turnover and, as the third-best pressure side in the league, create plenty of them. In fact, they have forced the third-most forward-half turnovers and second-most three-quarter turnovers (intercept possession won outside of your defensive 50) this season.

Once they have ball in hand they transition through the midfield as well as any, playing with speed, precision and efficiency, a style not too dissimilar to the Magpies. It's a game plan paying dividends, with the Giants averaging 101 points per contest over the last two months.

How Collingwood's back six, led by skipper Darcy Moore, holds up against the orange tsunami will be pivotal to the result of this game.

How healthy is Nick Daicos going to be and what impact can he have?

Daicos has been the player of the season and is the favourite to win next week's Brownlow Medal, but just how fit is he? Well, that's the million dollar question.

The 20-year-old superstar suffered a hairline fracture in his right knee in the Round 21 loss to Hawthorn on August 5 and has been sidelined ever since. By the time Friday night's game rolls around he will have had 48 days, aka seven weeks, to rehabilitate.

"We're not expecting any hiccups with Nick and he's been responding to each session better every time we've given him more load," said Collingwood's head of high performance, Jarrod Wade. "Nick has been working away in rehab for the last five or six weeks and was able to complete some of the match simulation last Friday night. He'll complete a full session of training this week."

Daicos will play but just how effective will he be? This year, he tallied 25+ disposals in all but one game, 12 times crossing the 30-disposal mark. He also kicked 18 goals, averaging more majors per game than any other midfielder not named Christian Petracca. You have to feel if he's at even 85% fitness, the Giants will be worried. I'd be surprised if they didn't send someone to him from the opening bounce.

Who gets the Toby Greene match-up and can they stop him?

Is there a more difficult and daunting match-up in the entire league than Greene? It's hard to think of one.

The Giants' skipper did not play when the two sides met in Round 9 and, at the risk of stating the obvious, is the biggest of ins for Fridays night's preliminary final. It's not hyperbole to suggest his performance will determine whether or not his side advances to the Big Dance.

Greene has booted 64 goals this year, easily the most among non-key forwards. He's also averaging a shade under 18 disposals per game. His football IQ is off the charts and he just knows how to beat his opponent time and time again.

So who will his opponent be? When the two sides met in Round 15 last year, the Magpies shared the load with Nick Daicos (35 minutes), Brayden Maynard (24 minutes), Jeremy Howe (23 minutes), John Noble (15 minutes) and Nathan Murphy (15 minutes) all spending time on him. You'd expect the two leading candidates to take responsibility for Greene this time around would be Maynard or Isaac Quaynor.

With that said, Greene got a hold of Quaynor in 2021, kicking five goals in the 58 minutes they were matched up. In that same game, Greene went scoreless in the 48 minutes Maynard was looking after him.

Have the Giants had enough rest?

The unfavourable Giants scheduling has been one of the talking points of the finals series and once again Adam Kingsley's side will feel a little hard done by with the AFL's post-season fixturing.

There's no doubt Collingwood earned the right to the scheduling advantage by finishing on top of the ladder, but that shouldn't come at a major disadvantage to another club. Anyway, I digress.

The reality is GWS will have to front up to the MCG after a six-day break, but that doesn't tell the full story. The Giants would have only returned back home on Sunday afternoon following their semifinal win over the Power at Adelaide Oval, and will travel to Melbourne on Thursday for the preliminary final. It's a tight turnaround.

Meanwhile, heading into this game the Magpies will have played once in 27 days. Since 2010, there have been 12 instances of a team playing a final off a six-day break against an opponent with at least seven days of rest. The team backing up after six days has won just 33% of those.

They Magpies are guaranteed to be fresh and rested and should the game be tight heading into the final term, it might be this factor which proves telling.