Sunderland will be looking to move a step closer to a place in the League One play-off final when they head to Sincil Bank on Wednesday to face Lincoln City.
After guiding the Black Cats to glory in the EFL Trophy in March, manager Lee Johnson witnessed his side crumble under the weight of expectation during the closing stages of the regular season as the club missed out on automatic promotion.
Having now dusted themselves down from this particular disappointment, Sunderland know that a positive display against Lincoln will keep their hopes of securing a return to the Championship alive.
However, when you consider that the Imps managed to exceed all expectations by clinching a fifth-place finish in the third-tier, they could cause the Black Cats a lot of issues due to the fact that all the pressure is on Johnson's side to progress in this competition.
Considering that a host of Sunderland players are out-of-contract this summer, the outcome of this particular clash may have an impact on whether the club decides to keep these individuals at the club.
Speaking to Sky Sports ahead of the Black Cats' showdown with the Imps, Micky Gray has insisted that the only player he believes is guaranteed to stay at the Stadium of Light next season is Luke O'Nien as his team-mates will be fighting for their futures.
The former Sunderland player said: "Every single player at the club at this present is fighting for their future.
"The only exception is Luke O'Nien, he is the only player in that that current squad, I believe, that deserves to be part of Sunderland going forward.
"Why aren't Sunderland running away with League One?
"We're a massive club.
"If we don't go up this time around, it'll be a lot more difficult next season with the likes of Sheffield Wednesday, Wycombe and Rotherham coming down - it gets harder the longer you're down here."
GIVEMESPORT's Joshua Cole says...
After experiencing a slump in form which ended their hopes of securing a top-two finish in the third-tier standings, Sunderland know that a failure to perform at their very best against Lincoln will result in heartbreak.
Considering that the likes of Portsmouth, Charlton Athletic and Sheffield Wednesday will all be pushing for promotion next season, there is no guarantee that the Black Cats will go up in 2022 and thus they have to take the opportunity presented to them in the coming weeks.
With many of his players facing uncertain futures, Johnson will be hoping that these individuals will step up to the mark and show him why they deserve to stay at the club.
Whereas the Black Cats boss will need to bolster his squad this summer regardless of what division the club find themselves in, promotion to the Championship may convince top-scorer Charlie Wyke to sign a new deal as his current contract is set to expire next month.
Read More - Summer transfer window: When does it open and who will move this summer?News Now - Sport News