TALLANGATTA can charge inside the top-five for the first time this season with victory against Mitta United at Tallangatta on Saturday.
The Hoppers and Blues are locked in a fierce battle for the remaining spot up for grabs inside the top-five.
Only percentage separates the two sides with the winner set to take a giant stride towards clinching a finals berth.
Hoppers' assistant coach, Tom Russell, is expecting a fierce contest with the stakes so high.
"There is a fair bit at stake and a must-win clash for both sides," Russell said.
"The loser will certainly face an uphill battle to remain in finals contention.
"If we can get the win it will give us a little bit of breathing space but Mitta is always a tough nut to crack."
Tallangatta will start slight favourites at home, with both sides letting opportunities slip over the past month.
The Hoppers drew with Dederang-Mt Beauty last month and also suffered a heartbreaking one point loss against Chiltern.
While the Mountain Men lost to Rutherglen two rounds ago which could come back to haunt them.
Tallangatta beat the Blues comfortably in both home and away encounters last season as well as by 20-points in the elimination final.
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"We'll take a bit of confidence out of those wins," he said.
"But we are under no illusion that it's going to be easy and we'll have to come to play to get the four points.
"On one hand it has been frustrating that we have let some opportunities slip over the past month.
"But on the other it's pleasing we have been in the contest.
"Especially against Chiltern who look set to play finals and are playing some good footy at the minute."
One of the highlights is set to be between big Hopper Scott Spencer and Blues' co-coach Ben Dower.
The pair both represented the league earlier this season and their battle will have a major bearing on the outcome.
Russell said Spencer was enjoying an outstanding season and would be leading the Hoppers' best and fairest count.
Forward James Breen has played the past three matches, having had a delayed start to the season after recovering from a broken leg suffered almost two years ago.
Russell said the return of Breen had allowed the Hoppers to reshuffle its structure.
"We always knew he had to manage his leg and he wouldn't be back playing until the back end of the season," he said.
"It's been almost two year's since he played and we don't expect him to be the focal point in attack but it does allow us some versatility with our structure."
Key defender Mitch Seaton missed last weekend and is set for an extended stint on the sidelines.
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