The top and tail of the Premier League meet at the Stadium of Light on Wednesday night as struggling Sunderland entertain Chelsea.
The Black Cats endured a torrid start to the season and showed signs of that awful form in a 3-0 loss to relegation rivals Swansea City on Saturday.
— NinetyMinutesOnline (@90MinsOnline) December 13, 2016
That result was a bitter blow for manager David Moyes – and the former Manchester United boss will know the Wearside club are in for an astonishingly tough examination on Wednesday.
Chelsea head to the North East on the back of a nine-game winning streak after Diego Costa secured a 1-0 win against West Bromwich Albion on Sunday.
The Spain international has been in scintillating form this campaign and currently tops the goal-scoring charts with 12 domestic strikes.
Antonio Conte’s men have opened up a three point gap at the top of the Premier League and will be keen to maintain that cushion against the Mackems – at the very least.
Sunderland have a number of long-term injury problems with Duncan Watmore (ACL Knee) joining Lynden Gooch, Jack Rodwell, Paddy McNair and influential captain Lee Cattermole on the sidelines until 2017.
David Moyes will also be without Didier Ndong, who misses the game through suspension.
For Chelsea, Oscar should recover from illness in time for the game, despite ongoing speculation the player is going to leave in a £60 million deal to be reunited with former boss Andre Villas-Boas in China.
The Brazil international’s inclusion leaves club legend John Terry as the only major absentee.
The former England international was sent off in this fixture last season as Sunderland secured a vital 3-2 victory over the Blues.
That result effectively secured the Black Cats survival in the 2015/16 season and Jermain Defoe, who scored the winner that day, will be vital to any chance his team has here.
The 33-year-old has scored eight Premier League goals this season and has formed an effective forward partnership with Victor Anichebe.
The onus however has to be on Chelsea to notch up a tenth successive victory and continue this devastating rise to the top of the English game.
Sunderland (4-4-2): Pickford; Manquillo, Kone, Djilobodji, Van Aanholt; Larsson, Kirchoff, Denayer, Pienaar; Anichebe, Defoe
Chelsea (3-4-3): Courtois; Azpilicueta, Cahill, David Luiz; Moses, Kante, Matic, Alonso; Pedro, Costa, Hazard