Sunderland continued their fight against relegation with what could be a vital three points away to Southampton on Saturday. Striker Steven Fletcher was the difference between the Black Cats and the Saints, with Scottish international's 42nd minute goal the winner.
Champions Manchester City, meanwhile, huffed and puffed to a 1-0 win over bottom of the table Reading, at the Etihad. Roberto Mancini needed a scrappy header from England international Gareth Barry to clinch the win.
City coasted to a 3-0 win in the reverse fixture at the Etihad in June, with Aleksandr Kolarov, Sergio Agüero and James Milner scoring for the hosts.
Where to Watch Live
Kick-off is set for 3 pm GMT. Catch all the highlights on Match of the Day, on BBC One and BBC One HD at 10.25 pm GMT.
The Black Cats' 1-0 win over Southampton ensured Martin O'Neill's side picked up point whenever and wherever they could; the holiday fixture list for the club has been a little unkind, with games against Chelsea, Manchester United, City, Tottenham and Liverpool scheduled between 8 December and 2 January. The only respite, it seemed at the start of the season, on the list were games against Reading and the newly promoted Southampton... and Sunderland have now won both those games.
Nevertheless, O'Neill will know the hard work during the first half of the season (Sunderland are 15th with 19 points and four wins from 18 games) could unravel all too quickly. Aston Villa, Wigan and Southampton themselves are all only one win away from serious pressure on Sunderland.
Sunderland have managed two wins in the last four games but their home record does not inspire much confidence - two wins and nine goals scored in eight games. City's away record, by contrast, is ominously good; the champions have won four of eight games, are unbeaten on the road and have scored 12 times.
Mancini was visibly relieved after Barry's 93rd minute header, which was, all in all, just about a fair result. City dominated possession and shots but looked rusty and out of sorts with Christmas approaching. They had to win, though, and win they did.
The win extends the club's league run to two consecutive wins and the title defence seems back on course after the defeat to rivals United. However, Mancini will be hoping the lack of goals is only a temporary issue; five goals in the last two games suggested a mid-season slump (four goals in five games) had been dispatched.
Finally, City received a major boost with United's draw at Swansea. The points table, before the two top clubs kick-off, has the Red Devils leading by four.
- Last Five (all competitions, most recent first):W L W L L
- Last Match:Southampton 0 - 1 Sunderland
- Last Five (all competitions, most recent first): W W L L D
- Last Match: Manchester City 1 - 0 Reading
O'Neill has only two injury worries - Wes Brown and Lee Cattermole - and neither is likely to return for this game. And the Northern Irishman will probably not make too many changes to the side that beat Southampton, if any at all.
It will be interesting to see ex-City winger Adam Johnson lining up against his former club. The 25 year old England international joined the Etihad club in the 2009/10 season, from Middlesbrough, but a less than reasonable return (10 goals and seven assists in 57 appearances) meant he was sold to the Black Cats in the summer.
Probable Line-Up: Mignolet; Rose, Gardner, O'Shea, Cuellar; Larsson, Colback, Johnson, McClean; Sessegnon; Fletcher
Left back Gael Clichy sat out the game against Reading with an unreported injury problem and he may not feature for this game either. Youngster Karim Rekik made his Premier League debut was largely untroubled and will likely retain his place for this fixture; particularly since Serbian left back Aleksandr Kolarov is also unavailable. Mancini could also opt to play Brazilian Maicon at right back and shift increasingly valuable utility player Pablo Zabaleta to left back.
Other absentees include Italy striker Mario Balotelli, England midfielder Jack Rodwell and French playmaker Samir Nasri, with Rodwell certainly ruled out.
In the absence of options on the bench, expect Mancini to name a largely unchanged side for this game. with Argentines Sergio Agüero and Carlos Tevez leading the attack line and Ivory Coast midfielder (the 2012 African Footballer of the Year) likely to play a key role.
Probable Line-Up: Hart; Zabaleta, Nastasic, Kompany, Rekik; Garcia, Barry; Toure, Silva, Tevez; Aguero