Manchester City have seen their lead atop the Premier League table vanish, as rivals Manchester United have tied them at 45 points. City will be looking to find their dominant form against Sunderland on New Year's Day.
City is 2-1-1 in their last four league games, their most recent match ending in a 0-0 draw to Wigan, who currently sit in the relegation zone.
The Manchester club has a very tough schedule in January, so it is important for them to take all three points against inferior teams such as Sunderland.
City has to play Liverpool and Manchester United in league play, as well as two Carling Cup semifinal ties with Liverpool in January.
Sunderland currently sit 15th in the league table with 18 points and drew their last league match to Everton 1-1.
Let's look at everything you need to know about this awesome matchup.
Where: Stadium of Light, Sunderland, England
Watch: Fox Deportes, Sky Sports HD1
When: Sunday, Jan. 1 at 10:00 p.m. EST
Player to Watch for Manchester City: David Silva
Spanish midfielder David Silva is one of the world's best playmakers, and his value to Manchester City is greater than any other player.
Silva not only scores goals himself, he creates glorious scoring opportunities for teammates. The strikers are able to make goal-scoring runs with the confidence that Silva will find them and give them a shot to score.
Sunderland have to contain Silva's effectiveness in this match or he will pick them apart in the midfield.
In league play, Silva has scored five goals with eight assists this season.
Player to watch for Sunderland: Sebastian Larsson
Sebastian Larsson leads Sunderland with five goals this season and is an attacking threat that Manchester City must keep a close eye on for 90 minutes.
The Swedish midfielder is not afraid to take chances, so City must be aware of his scoring threat in the final third of the pitch.
Key Matchup: Sunderland vs. City attack
Manchester City has so many attacking options for any situation, and for Sunderland to upset the league leaders or even take a point, they must limit the amount of quality chances they allow.
Players such as Edin Dzeko, Sergio Aguero, Mario Balotelli and Adam Johnson are all capable of having a huge impact in the final third, and they can not only score goals but set up teammates with scoring chances as well.
What They're Saying
Sunderland midfielder Jack Colback isn't afraid of Manchester City and is confident his team can do well against the league-leading side from Manchester.
He said the following, via Goal.com:
There's no reason why we can't get something if we play well and keep things solid at the back," he told the website. "It's a really good game to kick off 2012. City have a lot of class in their team, which they've shown by going to places like Old Trafford and winning.
They're very strong, but we're confident and hopefully we can cause them a few problems.
Prediction: City win 3-1
Not since 1938 have Manchester City and Sunderland played to a 0-0 draw in league play, so you can bet there will be goals in this game, especially with Manchester City's attacking depth.
However, City has taken 11 of the last 14 matches between the two clubs and they will win another on New Year's Day.
Silva will have little trouble finding teammates for good scoring opportunities on Sunday, and his playmaking talents will be the difference for City.
The league leaders will get a much-needed three points to start of 2012 strongly.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!