Sunderland vs. Man City
Venue: Stadium of Light
Kick off: 8:45pm
Manchester City boss, Manuel Pellegrini, will take charge of his first match since the news that he will be replaced by Pep Guardiola at the end of the current season was officially announced.
The Chilean will want to go out on a high, however, and will see a trip to 19th-placed Sunderland as the perfect chance to close the gap on league leaders, Leicester City, who face Liverpool on the same night.
Sunderland are not in must-win territory, which is the case for basement side, Aston Villa, but the Black Cats are still stuck inside the Premier League relegation zone, currently four points behind the safety of 17th place, which is held by Norwich City.
Just five wins have arrived in Sunderland’s 23 league games this season, while they have suffered 14 defeats, which is the joint-worst record in the division alongside Aston Villa.
As mentioned, however, the situation is not terminal and Sam Allardyce will still be confident that he and indeed his squad have the credentials to pull off an escape in the final months.
The fixture list for February has not been kind.
After this one, they will travel to Liverpool, before welcoming Manchester United.
It does not get any easier, however, as they then face a trip to West Ham United before the end of the month.
Those matches are even more worrying when considering that Sunderland have only claimed four points from a possible 33 against teams in the top half of the table.
Sunderland have been boosted by the signings of Lamine Kone and Wahbi Khazri from Lorient and Bordeaux respectively, however, and the pair are both expected to make their debuts in this match.
The worst-kept secret in football came out on Monday when it was confirmed that Guardiola would replace Pellegrini as head coach of Man City at the end of season.
It looked as if Man City would run away with the league this season after such a strong start, but they have stumbled for periods of the campaign.
The inconsistency of the division as a whole has left the club firmly in the title race, however, as the season heads for its latter stages.
Man City will enter this match in second spot in the table – three points behind the leaders Leicester. It does appear that it will be a three-horse race for the title, but Tottenham Hotspur, who are just five points off the summit, will also feel that they are capable of challenging for the crown.
Man City appear to have steadied over the last few weeks and they are unbeaten in their last six games in all competitions, which has also seen them advance to the League Cup final and fifth round of the FA Cup.
In the league, they have not been beaten since losing at Arsenal before Christmas, but they have drawn three of their last five in the top flight and were held to a 2-2 draw at West Ham United last time out.
The Manchester side were also 4-1 victors when the two teams clashed at the Etihad on Boxing Day and will once again be the firm favourites for this match.
Sunderland possible starting lineup: Mannone, Jones, O’Shea, Kone, Van Aanholt, M’Vila, Cattermole, Khaziri, Lens, Johnson, Defoe.
Man City possible starting lineup: Hart, Sagna, Demichelis, Otamendi, Kolarov, Fernando, Fernandinho, Silva, Toure, Sterling, Aguero.