Dick Advocaat
Dick Advocaat returns for a second season at Sunderland after last term's survivalGetty Images

Last season:

Premier League: 16th

FA Cup: Fifth round

League Cup: Third round

Top scorer: Connor Wickham and Jordi Gomez (6)

Summer's work

Alterations to the Black Cats' playing squad have been few and far between since surviving relegation last term. A regressing Jeremain Lens has signed from Dynamo Kiev and Sebastian Coates joins on a permanent deal after his loan spell. French bad boy Yann M'Vila has clinched his loan move to the north east in time to start the season.

Going the other way, Connor Wickham, who netted five league goals last term, leaves for Crystal Palace after the best scoring season of his top flight career.

Yann M'Vila
Yann M'Vila is the standout addition made by Sunderland this summerGetty Images

Manager - Dick Advocaat

The Dutch coach initially turned down the option to stay at the Stadium of Light, before changing his mind after helping the club avoid the drop.

Even after his obvious emotion at clinching that the critical draw at the Emirates Stadium last season, you wonder how much the 67 year old has, or wants, to give. The subtle, uncertain additions to his squad after such a turgid campaign suggest he may have already given up.

Key player – Lee Cattermole

Having initially been given more license to distribute the ball having despite carving out a reputation as an uncompromising holding midfielder, Sunderland's troubles saw Cattermole withdraw his attacking instincts during the closing months of the term.

With talismanic figures in the rest of the squad few and far between, the 27 year old must rediscover that expansiveness and combine it with his combative style to inspire Sunderland in Advocaat's only full season.

Lee Cattermole
Lee Cattermole will be vital to the Black Cats staving off relegationGetty Images

Expectations

Playing in front of an average crowd of 43,000 every other week, more than champions Chelsea or Tottenham Hotspur, naturally brings its own set of demands and expectations.

Nevertheless, a spate of misguided managerial appointments and the failure of many big money signings means even Black Cats fans are consigned to a season beset with the fear of relegation.

Furthermore, when hopes rest firmly on the shoulders 32-year-old Jermain Defoe, the limited Cattermole and Adam Johnson – who is enduring his own off-the-field problems – you get a good idea of what sort of campaign Sunderland can expect.

IBT prediction: 16th

Another campaign overshadowed with the looming threat of relegation, illuminated by eventual survival.