Sunderland face a daunting task as Pep Guardiola’s free-scoring Manchester City roll in to the Stadium of Light on Saturday.
Here, we pick out three key areas where the game will be won and lost...
1 Stifle Aguero
The loss of Gabriel Jesus looked to have weaken Manchester City’s resurgence but Aguero has returned sharp and hungry to impress.
He is a player whose record against Sunderland has mirrored his own team; frustrated and strangely lethargic during the shock defeats, borderline unstoppable when they have turned it on.
Jesus showed his superb dribbling abilities but Aguero’s movement and anticipation is second to none.
Sunderland’s defence is prone to losing concentration, and Manolo Gabbiadini showed what a striker with a poacher’s instinct can do. They can’t grant the Argentinian the same space.
2 Be bold on the counter
It would take an incredible effort for the Black Cats to keep City out for 90 minutes.
Guardiola has assembled one of the most attacking and vibrant sides in Premier League history and their pace will stretch Sunderland.
The home side will concede chances, of that there is no doubt.
What that must not stop is them being bold and committing players on the counter attack. City play without a defensive midfielder in the orthodox sense and will leave gaps between their defence and midfield.
Sunderland’s only hope is to find a measured way of getting players into that gap and releasing Defoe, who will find space against this defence.
3 Press smartly
There is little point going launching into a press on Man City’s midfield.
Sunderland don’t have the legs to really pull it off and technically, the likes of David Silva and Kevin de Bruyne are so good that they will play around it at speed and leave the hosts out of position and imbalanced.
Instead, the Black Cats need to target those players not so comfortable with the possession game.
Gael Clichy and Nicolas Otamendi are two obvious examples who could lose the ball close to their own goal under pressure.