It’s now six months since Sunderland stunned St. James’ Park last season, but following their 3-0 win on Tyneside, the Black Cats have won just once in 13 Premier League games.
With only a single point on the board this term after eight matches, new manager Gus Poyet knows the enormity of the task in hand—but Newcastle United arrive with revenge in mind.
The form table will mean little on Sunday afternoon, and if previous Tyne-Wear derbies are anything to go by, a ferocious pace on the pitch and a cup-tie atmosphere off it will come as standard.
Magpies manager Alan Pardew is no stranger to this fixture and knows the potential damage an early Toon goal could do to the Wearsiders’ moral.
So as the United boss works on his final preparations, we look at his likely starting XI against the old enemy at the Stadium of Light.
In what will be his sixth Tyne-Wear derby as a Newcastle United player, goalkeeper Tim Krul will be hoping his good record against Sunderland continues.
The Dutchman has endured defeat at the hands of the Wearsiders only once, and even then a dislocated shoulder restricted him to less than an hour between the posts.
His defence will take on an unfamiliar look thanks to injuries and suspensions, and the Toon stopper will need to count on experience to guide his back four successfully.
After a stirring display against Liverpool last weekend, it is hoped that French right-back Mathieu Debuchy has turned a corner in the black and white of Newcastle United.
Often lambasted for his positioning and lack of awareness, the former Lille man showed what he is capable of against the Reds and will look for a repeat performance at the Stadium of Light.
On the left, Davide Santon is also showing signs of improvement after a shaky start to the campaign, and the Italian will keep his place for the short trip to Wearside.
His attacking instincts may need to be curtailed early on, but if the Magpies can forge an early foothold in the game, the 22-year-old could be a real asset going forward.
On paper, the prospect of going into a local derby with your fourth and fifth-choice centre-backs in the side would send shivers down many a fan's spine.
But as Mike Williamson and Paul Dummett proved last Saturday against Liverpool, they are more than capable of putting in a solid shift when it matters.
The pair kept the likes of Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez at bay for long periods following Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa’s red card and were vital to the Magpies’ cause.
And with fitness doubts surrounding Steven Taylor, fellow local boy Dummett could cap a week to remember after scoring his first goal for the club against the Reds.
One of the key battles on Sunday will be played out in central midfield, and in Cheick Tiote, Newcastle United have a player brimming with confidence following his man-of-the-match display against Liverpool.
The influential Ivorian, who will wear the captain’s armband in the absence Fabricio Coloccini, will be relishing head-to-heads with the likes of Lee Cattermole and Craig Gardner and will be a key figure.
Alongside him, manager Alan Pardew must once more choose between Vurnon Anita and Moussa Sissoko and is expected to go with the latter.
The Frenchman’s strength and power could be vital in the early contest for midfield supremacy, and once the game opens up his attacking prowess could also come in handy.
Yohan Cabaye is another Newcastle United midfielder in excellent form, and he’ll be looking to add to his goal in the corresponding fixture at the Stadium of Light last season.
With two spectacular strikes in his last three games, the French international could dictate proceedings if he’s given the time and space to do so, but he’ll have to combat some early tackles to earn that right.
Cabaye’s ability is unquestionable, and Alan Pardew knows that if he gets his tactics right, he has a potential match-winner on his hands in the former Lille star.
After a largely anonymous shift in a central role against Liverpool, no one would be surprised to see Hatem Ben Arfa in his preferred wide role for Newcastle United on Sunday.
The French forward has struggled to replicate his early-season form of late, but when used in the right position the 26-year-old is a genuine game-changer.
On the left of a front three, Alan Pardew could well stick with the work rate and endless running of Yoan Gouffran.
The former Bordeaux man has found the net twice already this season, and if he could make it three at the Stadium of Light, his popularity on the terraces would rise to new levels.
With Papiss Cisse seemingly out of the loop at the moment, top scorer Loic Remy is expected to revert to the central striker’s role that has seen him grab five goals this season.
The on-loan forward failed to threaten against Liverpool last weekend, but if Alan Pardew rotates his attacking trio, the former Marseille star could benefit the most.
Sunderland’s back four have conceded 20 goals in their eight Premier League fixtures so far, and Remy will be hoping to add to their misery at the Stadium of Light on Sunday.