Even at this tender stage of the season, there’s plenty riding on tomorrow’s Dean Court clash as Sunderland look to record their maiden Premier League victory of the campaign and Bournemouth aim to create a six-point buffer with the Black Cats.
But where will the encounter be decided?
Here are three key areas for this weekend’s game.
1. Can Sunderland take advantage of Bournemouth’s defensive vulnerability?
Despite not creating a succession of clear-cut chances against Spurs last week, Sunderland constantly looked a threat with their high-tempo build-up play.
It is still early days, but a front three of Fabio Borini, Jermain Defoe and Jeremain Lens has the promise of goals, particularly with Ola Toivonen ever-willing to make an attacking quartet.
Judging by the three goals Bournemouth conceded against fellow newly-promoted side Norwich last weekend, there will gaps for Sunderland to exploit tomorrow.
After immediately losing £8million summer signing Tyrone Mings to a season-long injury, Eddie Howe is having to rely on defenders who got Bournemouth to the Premier League in the first place.
They were excellent in the unfortunate loss at Liverpool at the start of the campaign, yet, with three goals shipped against both Norwich and West Ham, there is a vulnerability.
2. Will Glenn Murray haunt Sunderland again?
Sunderland’s back four couldn’t handle Glenn Murray as the focal point of Crystal Palace’s attack last April, when he proved to be the catalyst for Yannick Bolasie’s 11-minute hat-trick at the Stadium of Light.
Bournemouth were already 2-0 down when Murray entered the fray from the bench for his Cherries debut last week after a £4million deadline day move from Palace.
But the 31-year-old could be installed in the starting line-up tomorrow, to partner four-goal Callum Wilson in attack.
Sunderland’s defence has improved as Younes Kaboul has knocked off the rust, but they will have to be wary of the aerial threat stemming from the wiley Murray.
3. Will Paolo Di Canio-favourite Matt Ritchie expose Sunderland’s full-backs?
Swindon’s decision to sell Ritchie to Bournemouth behind then manager Di Canio’s back proved to be one of the catalysts for the Italian leaving his position with the Robins.
Sunderland were subsequently linked with a move for Ritchie during Di Canio’s one summer at the helm, but he stayed put and helped Bournemouth into the Premier League.
Despite the capture of DeAndre Yedlin, full-backs Billy Jones and Patrick van Aanholt are likely to remain up against Ritchie after both were much improved against Spurs.
But given both had previously struggled this season, Scotland winger Ritchie will look to prey upon any weaknesses in Bournemouth’s “go-for-the-jugular” approach.