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Carlton coach Mick Malthouse is reluctant to tell Sydney counterpart John Longmire how to pick his side for Saturday night’s AFL semi-final, but he’s adamant Adam Goodes has to play in the knockout clash.

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Malthouse is fully expecting the Swans to find a place in their lineup for the dual Brownlow medallist, despite his lack of match conditioning after being out of action since suffering a knee injury in June.

Asked on Wednesday if he expected Goodes to play, Malthouse said: “Yeah I am. Champions, you always play champions.”

Both sides are nursing injury concerns, with Malthouse crossing his fingers that ruckman Matthew Kreuzer will be fit to play despite a bruised calf.

The Blues had a closed session on Wednesday.

“He trained … in some capacity,” said Malthouse.

“Matthew is part of that, as are other players who in a six-day break need to be managed.

“I’m extremely hopeful.

“Am I positive? I’m not positive about anyone really because that’s just the nature of the game as we saw with Brock McLean last week.

“I’ll be disappointed if he doesn’t play. Put it that way.”

McLean felt a twinge in his thigh and pulled out during the warm-up before the elimination final victory over Richmond on Sunday, with his spot going to four-goal hero Nick Duigan.

“(McLean) hasn’t re-injured it and he hasn’t done more damage,” Malthouse said.

“We’re very hopeful (he’ll play).”

If Kreuzer is ruled out, a left-field option to replace him is fellow ruckman Shaun Hampson, who has been training well for the past three weeks after overcoming a serious knee injury.

Hampson hasn’t played a senior game since round seven.

“If someone pulls out like (Robbie) Warnock or Kreuzer or (Lachie) Henderson or (Jarrad) Waite or any of the talls, it’d be a real punt for us to take him,” Malthouse said.

Kreuzer’s fitness is a key issue for the Blues, who need to find a way past Sydney’s formidable 2012 ruck premiership pairing Shane Mumford and Mike Pyke.

Come-from-behind wins in round 23 against Port Adelaide and in last week’s elimination final have boosted Carlton’s confidence.

However Malthouse said Sydney’s 54-point thrashing at the hands of Hawthorn in last Friday’s qualifying final may be a misleading statistic.

“You can build some confidence out of over-running a side, which our players have done,” Malthouse said.

“But psychologically Hawthorn, once they had built up their lead, Sydney were probably in their own minds thinking it’s a long way back, conserve energy for next week.

“So I don’t know if that was a 50-point loss in reality.

“We get some confidence out of it, but we also are realists to know that finals football is so totally different.”

The winner of Saturday’s match advances to a preliminary final against Fremantle at Patersons Stadium.

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