Where and when: MCG, Saturday May 4, 1.45pm AEST

Last time they met: MCG, semi-final, 2018: Melbourne 16.8 (104) defeated Hawthorn 10.11 (71) 

Melbourne won its way through to its first preliminary final in 18 years after a convincing 33-point win over Hawthorn in front of 90,152 fans. Tom McDonald kicked four goals and Jack Viney gathered 27 disposals in a commanding midfield display.

What it means for Melbourne: Melbourne's finals hopes are hanging by a thread after a disastrous start to the season leaves it with a 1-5 win-loss record. Winning is a must to keep its faint September dreams alive.

What it means for Hawthorn: After a narrow win over Carlton, Hawthorn is sitting with five other sides at 3-3 and needs to maintain the rage to keep pace with the top eight. The Hawks are going through a readjustment period.

How Melbourne wins: The Demons made some strides in the way they defended against the Tigers but connecting forward of centre was still a major issue. If Melbourne can put pressure on Hawthorn's developing defence and start converting opportunities from their entries, then they will be in business.

How Hawthorn wins: Limit Melbourne's possessions and control the football. Spread the ball and make the ground big, moving the ball with speed. The Hawks also need to give their forwards one-on-one opportunities against their opponents, an area in which Melbourne has been susceptible in this year.

The stat: Hawthorn has won 15 of the last 17 matches played against Melbourne.

The match-up: James Harmes v Jaeger O'Meara

Harmes is the man to go to O'Meara in a run-with role with the star Hawk in exceptional form. The Demons midfielder ranks 97th overall in the Official AFL Player Ratings and has failed to recapture the form that saw him finish third in last year's best and fairest. O'Meara is playing well above his rating (190th in the AFL).

It's a big week for: Clayton Oliver

With Jack Viney set to miss the next fortnight, Melbourne will need a big performance from its other star midfielder. Oliver has been statistically very good this season, averaging 32 disposals and more than seven clearances a game. But the Demons need him to increase his impact on games and on the scoreboard – he hasn't kicked a goal this season – if they are to defeat the Hawks.

Big call: Jack Gunston to turn around a slow start to the season and kick four goals against a Melbourne defence that has conceded an AFL-high 100.2 points per game this season.