Recap of last season

The Blues' new-look midfield last year gave them a much-improved showing and quality use of the ball up forward. Charlie Curnow was the big beneficiary, taking out the Coleman Medal a year after teammate Harry McKay had the same accolade.

Further afield, Jacob Weitering continued to be one of the leading defenders in the game, supported by Lewis Young. In front of him, Adam Saad and Sam Docherty, who recovered from testicular cancer, helped drive the Blues forward.

Despite the best efforts of Brownlow Medalist Patrick Cripps, the Blues fell agonisingly short of a finals berth, losing heartbreakingly to the Collingwood Magpies in the final throes of the last week of the home and away season.

How they can improve

Can the Blues find a clutch gene? Two crucial losses in the final two weeks of the season were the nail in the coffin for finals hopes, but there were three losses by less than a goal across the year, including two to Collingwood, much to the chagrin of Blues fans.

Those three games were the difference between finals and disappointment, and if the Blues can ensure that they win close games this year, they will dramatically increase their chances of returning to September football.

The Blues showed last year that they are on the cusp of making a return to finals, and there isn't too much more improvement needed to be contending at the business end of the year.

List changes

IN: Blake Acres (Fremantle Dockers), Jaxon Binns (draft), Alex Cincotta (PSSP), Lachie Cowan (draft), Oliver Hollands (draft), Harry Lemmey (draft), Hudson O'Keeffe (PSSP).

OUT: Will Hayes (delisted), Oscar McDonald (delisted), Jack Newnes (delisted), Luke Parks (delisted), Will Setterfield (Essendon Bombers), Liam Stocker (delisted), Tom Williamson (delisted).

Biggest strength

The Blues have star power all over the field, with superstars at both ends, and a blue-chip engine room in the middle. McKay, Curnow, Weitering, Cripps and Walsh are all household names.

All across the park, the Blues have players who can take matters into their own hands and can put the team on their back and drag them to victory. It should give the team comfort, knowing that when the chips are down, those superstars can take the game away from the opposition.

Biggest weakness

Jacob Weitering is a star, and Lewis Young is a rising prospect, but the third tall defender remains a question mark. Caleb Marchbank has shown talent but has hardly been on the park to prove it in his time at Carlton, as he has wrestled with injury after injury.

Marchbank's competition for the role, Mitch McGovern has fared slightly better but has still struggled with availability since joining the club.

The small defenders at the club, like Saad and Docherty, have strong reputations for rebounding play and attacking football, but the lockdown abilities of the small and medium defenders still leaves some room for concern.

Rising Star

Jesse Motlop carries a famous name, but he showed in flashes last year that he can live up to the name, and beyond it. With 12 goals in as many games, Motlop showed his nous for hitting the scoreboard.

His pressure, and ability to affect the play without the ball will be what has Carlton fans excited, as he helps to build pressure in Michael Voss' forward line. If he can continue to grow that ability, he will become an invaluable part of the Carlton side for the next decade.

With speed to burn, intent to tackle and goalscoring ability, Motlop has all the ingredients to break out and become a bonafide star of the competition. The hope will be that he puts it together this year, and starts to help Carlton push back into finals.

Prediction

The Blues have shown that they are on the cusp, but injuries have already shown that they will be an issue for the Blues. Zac Williams tore his ACL during the preseason and will miss the year, and Sam Walsh is out for the early part of the season too.

The Blues have shown that they are on the cusp, but injuries and form have the potential to ruin the high hopes in the club, and it would only need to swing a match or two to be enough to doom the Blues' final hopes.

Given the already extensive injury list, and the concerns around some players with long injury histories, expect injuries to plague the Blues for one or two matches too many, and the Blues to miss finals as a result.

Ladder prediction: 11th

Before you move on, why not give our Facebook page a like here? Or give our Twitter account a follow to keep up with our work here.