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West Coast need to brace for Pies
Collingwood's Travis Cloke and Eagle Eric Mackenzie during Round 14. Picture: Andrew White/Slattery Media

Defender Eric Mackenzie says talk of Collingwood spearhead Travis Cloke's diminished form has been exaggerated and West Coast need to brace for the Pie's potential to tear a game apart.

The Eagles face last year's grand finalists at the MCG on Saturday in a massive test of their premiership ambitions.

Mackenzie will almost certainly be asked to mark danger man Cloke, particularly with fellow defender Will Schofield expected to miss at least two matches with a hamstring strain.

Cloke earned his first All- Australian guernsey last year after taking 95 contested marks - the most on record by an AFL player in a season - and kicking 69 goals.

He has averaged one less mark a game in 2012 and kicked five fewer goals than at the same point last season.

Cloke, who is coming out of contract, is being vigorously pursued under free agency rules by other clubs, including Fremantle.

Mackenzie said he had been keeping an eye on Cloke's performances in recent weeks.

He stressed the forward had still been a major contributor in the Magpies' sparkling run of eight successive wins that has them rated as flag favourites.

"He's been in not too bad form this year," Mackenzie said.

"I think he still creates a contest. It's only a matter of time before he pulls out another good one.

"I don't think he's as out of form as people are saying. I'm sure it'll come for him, but hopefully a week later. He's tough, he's a big man. He can run all day, so you can't try and play off him because he's too strong and he'll run.

"You've got to try and find some way. You just need the pressure up the field to help you out."

Mackenzie's only direct match-up against Cloke came in last year's qualifying final when he held the Pie to one goal, 10 disposals and four marks.

West Coast lost that contest by 20 points after being thrashed by 52 points by the Magpies in round 10.

Mackenzie believed the Eagles were a far better side than the one that first faced the Magpies last season.

"I reckon we've definitely improved an awful lot from midway through last year, which I think showed later in the year last year and early this year," Mackenzie said.

West Coast will regain vice- captain Beau Waters after a one-week suspension.

Midfielder Luke Shuey is also expected to play, after recovering from a heavy bump in the final quarter against Carlton last Thursday night.

Mackenzie said the defensive group was confident it could cover for Schofield.

"We've got Mitch Brown, who's playing great footy for East Freo, so he can come straight in like for like," Mackenzie said.

"Otherwise there's other blokes in good form as well. There's plenty of depth down back."