Collingwood on Friday were paying the in-form North Melbourne plenty of respect and playing down their recent domination of the Kangaroos.
The Magpies have won their past four clashes against North by an average of more than 13 goals, but assistant coach Ben Hart says the Kangaroos are in tip-top shape heading into Saturday night's crucial round-21 clash at Etihad Stadium.
Third-placed Collingwood (15-4) have won their past three matches, including last weekend's eight-point triumph over ladder leaders Sydney, while the sixth-placed Kangaroos (12-7) are on a five-game winning streak.
Collingwood have an unchanged side for the first time this year.
The Kangaroos regain midfielder Jack Ziebell and small forward Lindsay Thomas from suspension and Luke Delaney replaces injured centre half-back Nathan Grima, while midfielder Leigh Adams (shoulder) has been ruled out for the season and Daniel Wells (calf) will miss several weeks.
"They like to get the ball out into open space and take the opposition on," Hart said of the Roos.
"We're expecting a tough day because they're in very good form and very fit.
"If you let them get up and about, they're a side who can take any team on and do well."
Hart says the key to the game will be the contested possessions, with North's Ziebell and Collingwood pair Scott Pendlebury and newly re-signed young gun Dayne Beams to be major factors.
Beams has risen to every challenge, Hart says, with an increased role following Luke Ball's season-ending knee injury in round three.
The 22-year-old Queenslander has been mentored strongly by midfield coach and dual Brownlow Medallist Robert Harvey.
"He finds the footy pretty naturally but he has really worked hard on his work-rate backwards and forwards (in defence and attack)," Hart said.
"That's the way Rob Harvey spent all of his 383 games playing (in constant motion).
"If that's rubbing off on the way that Dayne's playing, it's been great.
"His work rate is something we've probably kept an eye on for the year and it has improved steadily along the way."
The Magpies are hoping Ziebell doesn't hit the ground running following a two-week, high-altitude training camp in Utah.
"(The injury to) Wells is probably handy for us not to have him there," Hart said.
"Ziebell coming in, the proof will be in the pudding for that, whether or not the altitude training will have the same effect it did for Dane Swan last year (who averaged 34.7 possessions in 13 games after returning from a mid-season training camp in Arizona).
"Hopefully Ziebell might be a little bit underdone after missing a bit of footy."
Swan is serving the second week of a two-game club suspension for breaking a booze ban, but Collingwood's depth has been more than enough to handle the Kangaroos in recent clashes.
"We haven't really mentioned the previous encounters with them," Hart said.
"They're in terrific form at the moment and we're fully focused on that more than anything else."