For Manchester City, the game is a must-win if it wants to keep with Manchester United. The defending Premier League champion trails its local rival by four-points in the table—a gap small enough to be managed, but wide enough to be considered substantial.
Both clubs will play three games between now and January 1, and they will do so, overwhelmingly, against lesser competition. Teams they need to beat, not draw against.
For Sunderland, the game is pivotal in their hopes to fend off relegation. At 4-7-7, they currently sit 15th in the table, but only four points separate them from 18th-place Wigan Athletic.
The 18th-, 19th- and 20th-placed finishers all get relegated after the season.
The Black Cats are coming off a much-needed win over Southampton, but the immediate schedule presages a drop in the table. After playing second-place Manchester City, they have games against sixth-place Tottenham and eighth-place Liverpool.
Coming away with at least one point on their home pitch will, thus, be a very big deal for Sunderland. Let's look at when and where you can find the action:
When: Wednesday, Dec. 26th, 10 a.m. ET
Where: Stadium of Light, Sunderland, England
Live Stream: FOX Soccer 2Go
Sunderland's strength this year has been the defense, which has conceded just 24 goals in 18 games. That's good for an average of just 1.3 per game.
Three of those allowed goals, however, came against Manchester City in their previous meeting—a 3-0 victory for the reigning champs.
Aleksander Kolarov started the fusillade of goals in that one with a score in the fifth minute, and was followed by second-half strikes from Sergio Aguero and James Milner.
Sunderland will need its defense to play much better at home if they want to win or draw this one. Especially with their anemic offense, which has scored just 19 goals this year, squaring off with the Premiership's second-best scoring defense.
Their best chance of scoring will likely be forward Steven Fletcher, who's scored in two of the team's last three matches. The 25-year-old Scot has eight goals on the season, tied with Marouane Fellaini for sixth-best in the league.
Fletcher was able to get three shots on goal in the teams' first meeting, but none were good enough to find the net. If Sunderland wants to abscond with three points, he'll likely need to change that record.