Manchester United will travel to the Stadium of Light for the early kick-off on Saturday. Sir Alex Ferguson's men are looking for a seventh straight Premier League win and the chance to increase, if only temporarily, the gap over champions Manchester City to a staggering 18 points.
Meanwhile, Martin O'Neill will be wary of a difficult run-in to the end of the season. The Black Cats are 15th and only four points clear of Wigan Athletic, who head the relegation zone. Unfortunately for Sunderland fans, four of the eight remaining games are against top clubs - and of these they play United, Chelsea and Everton in quick succession, with Newcastle United thrown in for good measure. The good news for the hosts is they also have games against Southampton and Aston Villa, in 16th and 17th places respectively.
The reverse fixture, in December, saw United win 3-1. Goals from Robin van Persie and Tom Cleverley, inside the first 20 minutes, set up the win. Wayne Rooney scored on the hour before ex-United forward Fraizer Campbell scored a late consolation goal.
This fixture last year also ended in defeat for Sunderland, with Rooney scoring the only goal of the match. Incidentally, this was the last game of the season for both clubs and one United needed to win to have any chance of winning the Premier League. They did pick up all three points but Sergio Agüero's late winner at the Etihad meant the Old Trafford club lost out on goal difference.
Where to Watch Live
Kick-off is scheduled for 12.45pm GMT. Live coverage is on Sky Sports 2 and radio commentary is on BBC Radio 5 live. Catch highlights on Match of the Day, on BBC One at 10.30pm GMT.
Sunderland come into this game after a scrappy 1-1 home draw against Norwich City. The Black Cats are winless since mid-January (a 3-2 win at Wigan) and have won only twice in 2013 (from 12 games). On paper, then, this should be an easy win for United.
O'Neill also has next weekend's trip to Stamford Bridge to worry about but for now, the Red Devils will occupy all of his thoughts. The Black Cats have won only four of 15 home games this campaign, scoring 17 goals in all those fixtures and conceding 16 times.
The good news is Sunderland have failed to score only once in the last five games (0-1 to Arsenal). The bad is they've shipped nine in that time; United have scored 30 times in 14 games on the road, which is an average of roughly two goals per game. And even if we factor in Sunderland's surprisingly excellent defensive record at home (only 16 goals conceded), it is almost certain van Persie, Rooney and co will find the back of Simon Mignolet's net.
The only question is - can a side who've scored only 17 times at home respond, particularly against a pumped-up Manchester United?
Going forward, O'Neill will likely rely on Adam Johnson and Craig Gardner for creativity and goals. Ireland international James McClean could also be a problem for United, given the 23-year-old had a couple of good games with his national side during the international break.
United are in imperious form in the Premier League and will be desperate to seal a 20th league championship as soon as possible. The side are already well clear of noisy neighbours City but will be aware they let an eight-point lead slip away last season, with fewer games remaining.
However, and this is likely to be good news for Sunderland, Ferguson has an FA Cup replay against Chelsea on Monday afternoon, which he would dearly love to win. Therefore, the chance of at least a few key players (van Persie, maybe) being rested for the trip to London on April Fools' Day cannot be ruled out.
The Dutch international has had a phenomenal first season at Old Trafford but has not scored a goal for the club since early February and played for almost the full 180 minutes of the Netherlands' World Cup qualifiers last week.
The league leaders beat Reading at home in the last round of games, with Rooney scoring. The English international has now scored thrice in his last four games for United and will likely lead Ferguson's attack.
United have won 10 of 14 games on the road this season and based on present form, expect them to pick up a 25th win of the 2013/14 campaign with ease.
- Last Five (all competitions, most recent first):D L D L L
- Last Match: Sunderland 1 - 1 Norwich City
- Last Five (all competitions, most recent first): W D L W W
- Last Match: Manchester United 1 - 0 Reading
Sunderland have a huge hole up front, where top scorer Steven Fletcher would normally play. The Scotland international has been ruled out for the season. O'Neill will likely turn to January signing Danny Graham for goals; the ex-Swansea City forward has yet to score for his new club but seven goals in 23 appearances for the Welsh club show he is capable of chipping in with key strikes.
Attacking midfielder Stephane Sessegnon will return from a groin injury and take his place behind the centre forward. David Vaughan (groin) should also be available but Carlos Cuellar (ankle) is a doubt and ex-United defender Wes Brown (knee) is ruled out.
Probable Line-Up: Mignolet; Gardner, O'Shea, Bramble, Rose; Johnson, Larsson, N'Diaye, McClean; Sessegnon; Graham
Meanwhile, Ferguson will probably rotate his squad, with the Monday match against Chelsea in mind. Expect Javier Hernandez and Rooney to start up front, with van Persie saved for Chelsea. Nani (hamstring), Paul Scholes (knee) and Phil Jones (ankle) are doubtful and will probably not be risked for this game.
Probable Line-Up: De Gea; Rafael, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra; Carrick, Giggs; Valencia, Rooney, Kagawa; Chicharito