Gold Coast coach Stuart Dew is mindful his improving AFL side is in danger of losing touch with the top eight heading into Wednesday's clash with Essendon.
The 12th-placed Suns have won four of 10 matches this season following last Thursday's agonising four-point loss to Essendon.
With the 11th-placed Bombers having a game in hand, Dew is treating the Metricon Stadium clash as a mini-final for his squad.
"Looking at the ladder it's plain to see there's a slight gap opening up, so if we're unable to get this win, Essendon are around the mark where we are as well and some of those teams that we're about to play are in a similar situation," he said.
"It's good for our guys to prepare for these types of games and have a fair bit riding on them."
With the Bombers match to be the first of three in nine days for the Suns, Dew and his selection committee threw up a surprise with their team by dropping 2019 leading goalkicker Alex Sexton.
Nick Holman is another surprising omission, with Sam Flanders named to make his AFL debut.
Josh Corbett and midfielder Brayden Fiorini also come into the team.
Dew said Fiorini, a regular last year who has only made three appearances in 2020, had earned his recall.
"Brayden's been patiently waiting, and has been an absolute professional in his team first attitude," he said.
Essendon have made one forced change from the team which fell to a four-point defeat to GWS last week with Jacob Townsend suffering a concussion against the Giants.
Bombers coach John Worsfold has also rested key defender Michael Hurley and young ruckman Sam Draper, with veteran big man Tom Bellchambers, defender Martin Gleeson and midfielder Dylan Clarke recalled.
"The Suns, a lot of their games have been very contested games, so that means the pressure's up for both teams," Worsfold said.
"We understand that's going to be the case and it's something that we want to pride ourselves on, being more consistent in the pressure we bring."