This is what Lee Johnson expects from Sunderland's crucial first-leg clash at Lincoln City
Lee Johnson is expecting an open game as Sunderland bid to secure a first-leg advantage at Lincoln City on Wednesday evening.
The two sides have been evenly matched in their two most recent meetings at the Stadium of Light, with games finishing 1-1 in normal time.
Though Sunderland ran out emphatic 4-0 winners at the LNER Stadium in December last year, the hosts missed two glorious early chances to demonstrate the threat they possessed despite the end result.
While there is likely to be plenty of tension in the first leg, Johnson is convinced that both sides will stay true to their philosophies. As a result, he expects chances for both teams.
"We've got to expect Lincoln to be at their best," Johnson said.
"If you're a winner and you're a team that's got that belief in themselves in each other, you should want to play a team at their best and beat them.
"It's going to be a tough game, a tense game, it's going to be full of energy.
"Both teams have that.
"I'm looking forward to it. They've all been good games, even the two draws.
"There's been lots of end-to-end play and this is not going to be a game where either side looks to shut up shop.
"We've experienced that a lot this year, particularly at home, where someone looks to nick it on the counter attack or from a set play. I think both teams are going to go and try and win both of these football matches.
"That should make it exciting for the fans."
Lincoln started the season in superb form, dropping away only when injuries and the impact of a COVID-19 outbreak checked their progress.
With most of their first choice XI now fully fit, Johnson knows that they cannot be underestimated.
The head coach has nevertheless been clear that he backs his side against anyone, providing they produce their best when it counts.
"Michael Appleton is a really good coach and you can really see that when you watch their games," he said.
"The work they do comes out in their performance.
"Huge credit has to go to them hugely for the season they've had.
"We've got to bring our A game across two games, and Wednesday is the first opportunity to do that.
"I'm not really looking at any of the previous records, to be honest.
"It's about going to try and beat a very good team, simple as that.
"If we play well, we will nullify most team's threats in this division and then we have our own threats.
"If you don't play well then you are susceptible that the better teams can bring their top players into it, and there is no doubt that Lincoln have those top players.
"We've got to be a master of both disruption but also having the ball and making sure we can bring our best attributes.
"That's where the delicate balance is. The temperament has got to be right, good players make good decisions."