The state of things
Manchester City are the visitors on Sunday as Sunderland aim to halt a run of just five points from the last nine Premier League games.
City can leapfrog Tottenham into second if Everton can get something at White Hart Lane. That game will be completed by kick-off time at the Stadium of Light so Pep Guardiola's men may have an additional incentive if the earlier match ends in their favour.
As for Sunderland, hope of exiting the bottom three will have to wait until the Black Cats' traditional spring resurgence. The best that David Moyes can hope for this weekend is to jump above Hull City into second bottom. And with just one more game to come in March, it will be April before a relegation escape plan can be plotted.
Moyes met the media this afternoon, and here's what the Sunderland manager said about how this season has unfolded and who he has at his disposal for the visit of Pep Guardiola's side tomorrow.
1. 'We expected to be in a relegation fight - as I told you'
Asked what he had learned since the last time he faced Manchester City at the start of the season, David Moyes indicated that he fully expected to be in a battle at the bottom of the league; and with a likely nod to those infamous comments about anticipating a relegation battle, the Sunderland boss suggested being stuck at the foot of the table wasn't a million miles from where he thought his side would be now:
I don't think anything has changed greatly [since the start of the season]. We've generally told everyone from day one what the situation was.
We're in fighting with a few teams which we thought we would be. But we're trying to build things and first and foremost stay in the Premier League.
2. Back to 5-3-1-1?
Billy Jones is fit to continue at right-back. The 29-year-old was replaced late in the game at Everton after suffering a whack to his head but Moyes revealed there are no concerns over his availability for Sunday.
And with Papy Djilobodji back in the running for a start this weekend following his four-game ban, that may entice David Moyes into restoring the five-man defence he's utilised of late to combat City's attacking threat.
With Sergio Aguero capping a headlining performance scoring two goals midweek against Huddersfield, Manchester City's front-line looks unstoppable right now with De Bruyne, Sane and Sterling also impressive in the Cup.
Moyes opted for three central defenders in a run of games before abandoning the system at half time against Southampton. That was in Sunderland's last home game as they were forced to chase the game being two goals down in the first period.
Moyes went with a back four for the trip to Everton too but Jason Denayer was missing through illness last week. The Manchester City loanee will not be eligible for Sunday's game but Djilobodji will almost certainly come in to the starting eleven.
3. Kirchhoff won't feature
His return to training may have provided Sunderland with a boost but Jan Kirchhoff won't feature this weekend. Moyes said the length of the German's absence means he has a way to go yet until he reaches full fitness.
The 26-year-old midfielder is out of contract in the summer and has barely featured in a red-and-white shirt this season but Sunderland's faltering midfield is desperate for his return.
It was the middle of the park where Sunderland were overrun by Everton's pace and fluidity last time out and the defensive midfield pairing of Ndong and Gibson spent much of the game on the back foot.
Sunderland have a two week break after this weekend with the rearrangement of the Tees-Wear derby so Kirchhoff will be nearer the squad for the visit of Burnley in the middle of the month.
4. No Rodwell or Pienaar either
Moyes indicated Jack Rodwell will not make the squad for Sunday either. The former Manchester City man has missed the last two games and still won't be fit enough to face his former club.
That means the Sunderland boss will likely continue with Darron Gibson alongside Didier Ndong in the centre of midfield.
Steven Pienaar is still out too. The South African is struggling with a calf strain which kept him out of the trip to Goodison Park last weekend.
5. Now is the time
With Sunderland desperately needing to keep in touch with the relegation pack until the games start coming thick and fast again in April, Moyes admitted that the required five or six wins from the remaining thirteen games will mean his side have to beat one or two of the top teams in the run-in to stay in the Premier League:
We'll have to win one or two of these games against the big sides in the run-in, so why not this one.
The Sunderland boss pointed to decent performances at home against Tottenham and Liverpool as an indicator that his squad have enough about them to get something against the top-six sides.
Sunderland also came close to rescuing a point against Chelsea in December when Patrick van Aanholt was denied in the dying seconds of the game by a stunning save by Thibaut Courtois.
6. Moyes uncovers the magic formula for winning games...at last
With the games running out, Sunderland have to start winning at some point to offer any hope in the desperate battle against relegation. David Moyes' men have only engineered one win since the victory over Watford at the Stadium of Light in mid-December.
But fear not, Moyes has figured out how to win matches:
We're desperate to get 3 points. We have to make sure we're solid & don't concede, but we also have to make sure we score goals.
We think he's on to something.