With the tourists looking to build on the momentum from their win over the Crusaders, coach Warren Gatland named an all-new starting line-up, while the Highlanders were left counting the cost of their success.
The Super Rugby club, who only just lost to the Crusaders a week ago, will be without seven players on All Blacks and New Zealand Maori duty.
Only All Blacks Lima Sopoaga and Waisake Naholo, and injury cover Liam Coltman, have been released to face the Lions.
But Gatland has Warburton back, having recovered from an ankle niggle to join former Highlander James Haskell and CJ Stander in the loose forwards.
He will be joined in the halves by his Ospreys and
Gatland believes his side are gathering momentum towards the first Test, but expects a “massive” confrontation with the Highlanders.
“At this stage of the tour, everyone has had a start and as coaches we are happy that all the players have had a chance to put their hand up and perform in the Lions jersey,” Gatland said when naming his side on Sunday.
“We are building some momentum and we have improved with every game.
“We were obviously pleased with the win against the Crusaders, especially our defence and game management, but we know the Highlanders will be another massive test for us as a squad.”
Haskell, a late addition to the Lions squad after Billy Vunipola pulled out, played 12 games for the Highlanders in 2012 and expects the southern club to present the Lions with their most physical challenge outside of the Tests.
He said the tourists needed to match that.
“I think the Highlanders have got the underlining physicality. A lot of physicality, massive work at the breakdown, very set-piece orientated, very big scrum,” Haskell said.
“You have to impose yourself on these teams; I’m not saying it’s the go-to, but it’s certainly part of what we’re trying to do.”
The Highlanders are without Aaron Smith and Ben Smith, who remain with the All Blacks for their Test against
Elliot Dixon, Ash Dixon, Joe Wheeler, Rob Thompson and Tom Franklin are required for the New Zealand Maori clash with the Lions on Saturday.
Highlanders: Richard Buckman, Waisake Naholo, Malakai Fekitoa, Teihorangi Walden, Tevita Li, Lima Sopoaga, Kayne Hammington, Luke Whitelock (captain), Dillon Hunt, Gareth Evans, Jackson Hemopo, Alex Ainley, Siate Tokolahi, Liam Coltman, Daniel Lienert-Brown.
Bench: Greg Pleasants-Tate, Aki Seiuli, Siosiua Halanukonuka, Josh Dickson, James Lentjes, Josh Renton, Marty Banks, Patrick Osborne.
Lions: Jared Payne, Jack Nowell, Jonathan Joseph, Robbie Henshaw, Tommy Seymour, Dan Biggar, Rhys Webb, CJ Stander, Sam Warburton (captain), James Haskell, Iain Henderson, Courtney Lawes, Kyle Sinckler, Rory Best, Joe Marler.
Bench: Ken Owens, Jack McGrath, Dan Cole, Alun Wyn Jones, Justin Tipuric, Greig Laidlaw, Owen Farrell, Elliot Daly.