Sunderland are facing a battle to hold on to Jack Colback and Phil Bardsley after both players turned down fresh contract offers from the Black Cats.
The Journal can reveal fresh talks are due to be held after the Capital One Cup final with the pair, who are among four senior stars whose futures are looking increasingly uncertain on Wearside.
There is interest in both players with Colback being tracked by Everton and Bardsley, for whom the club turned down two bids from Fulham during the January transfer window, being eyed by a number of Premier League suitors.
Sunderland are keen to hold on to both players and had wanted to tie them down to longer contracts after the January transfer window, but so far they have been unable to agree terms with either man.
Colback has become a firm favourite of boss Gus Poyet while Bardsley, who was told he could leave Sunderland in the summer, has been recalled to the Scotland squad for his excellent performances recently.
The Journal understands that as of last week no discussions had taken place with Seb Larsson, who is out of contract at the end of the season, and both parties appear to have accepted Craig Gardner will depart in the summer.
West Brom are interested in the midfielder but he is also on the hit-list of the trio of Midlands clubs currently battling for promotion from the Championship – with Derby, Nottingham Forest and Leicester all looking at him.
The Black Cats are currently trying to plan for next season while being unaware of what division they will be playing in and whether they will have the demands of a European campaign, which will be the by-product of winning the Capital One Cup if they manage to overcome Manchester City.
Poyet is understood to have told the club’s power brokers he wants to keep both Bardsley and Colback, who have made a big impact during Sunderland’s march to Wembley and improved league form.
Both want to stay on Wearside but, with other interest in them, the club are facing competition for their signatures.
The Journal understands Sunderland turned down a bid from Fulham in January for Bardsley.
As Sunderland look to tie those two players down, Poyet has backed his number one Vito Mannone as he prepares to return to Arsenal this weekend.
The former Gunners goalkeeper is back in North London this weekend with Sunderland, where he has established himself as a key man in Poyet’s plans.
Poyet said: “He has shown he is good enough to be a number goalkeeper in the Premier League and that is so important to us.
“I have always said the goalkeeper and the strikers - and I don’t know which way around - are very important roles in a team.
“Very, very important roles. Those roles, if you don’t have players who are the best then you become a very weak team. Vito has been exceptional.”
Poyet does not want the Italian to do anything different as he returns to North London having established himself as a Premier League goalkeeper after a spell at the Emirates where appearances were few and far between.
He added: “It’s difficult to say if I’m surprised or not by how well he’s done, but it was one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make, before the Man City game, whether to play Vito or Westy.
“Sometimes you make decisions and they don’t go for you and you have made a massive mistake and you need to rectify it and go back.
“Sometimes the player proves you right and he becomes a success. That’s up to the player.
“Vito is not playing well because I put him in against Man City.
“He’s playing well because he’s doing well and he’s in a great moment. This game, for him, it should be a great day.
“He needs to take it as being a very enjoyable day rather than having something to prove, because then it would change his whole approach and feelings during the game. I hope so.
“I’m trying to give it the same importance as any other game and no more than normal.”