The first Tees-Wear derby of the season takes place on Monday between two sides who have had far from ideal starts to the new campaign.
Much was expected of Chris Wilder and Middlesbrough following the impact he made at the Riverside Stadium last season after taking over from Neil Warnock in November.
The former Sheffield United man took Boro to the cusp of the play-offs last year but only one win from seven matches shows that things aren't quite clicking yet this term, despite a raft of summer signings.
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Sunderland are eighth and just one point off the play-off places, but have already had to deal with a managerial departure as Alex Neil decided to leave for Stoke City.
Former Blackburn and Boro boss Tony Mowbray is his replacement and he did get off to a good start in midweek against Rotherham.
Middlesbrough v Sunderland, Championship
Riverside Stadium, Middlesbrough
20:00, Monday 5th September 2022
How to watch
Sky Sports Main Event/Football
Middlesbrough 8/11, draw 13/5, Sunderland 4/1
It is fair to say that Middlesbrough have not played badly this season but a lack of cutting edge sees them occupy one of the three relegation spots in the Championship.
Wilder won't be worried just yet about Boro being embroiled in a survival battle but even at this early stage, he will be concerned about the gap between his side and those near the top.
In general, Boro have dominated possession in games and created opportunities - they have scored 10 goals already this season - which is more than the teams around them in the table.
However, their defending has been sloppy and they have the second-worst defensive record in the league, despite playing one fewer game than the majority of their rivals.
A derby match will present an ideal chance for Boro to really kick-start their season following a frustrating loss to Watford in midweek where they were beaten after taking the lead.
One selection headache Wilder has is who to play up front, with plenty of options available.
Wilder has always liked to have an array of forward options at his disposal and regularly rotates between them to try and extract maximum performances.
Chuba Akpom began the season well and scored a brace against Sheffield United in a 2-2 draw but he has been injured since, while summer signings Marcus Forss and Rodrigo Muniz have one goal apiece.
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Muniz scored on his full debut in the defeat to Watford so he might still get the nod but it is fascinating to see how he juggles his team with so many options.
Sunderland fans may have been forgiven for panicking when Alex Neil left for Stoke but Tony Mowbray is a proven safe pair of hands at Championship level.
Last season, he came close to guiding Blackburn into the play-offs despite them spending very little and it was a surprise to some onlookers that he was let go at the end of his contract.
He wasn't out of work for long, however, and Sunderland decided to snap him up and bring him back to his native North East.
And, if his first game is anything to go by, then Sunderland fans will have some fun in the Mowbray era as two Ross Stewart strikes and a stunning solo effort from Jack Clarke secured a 3-0 win against a previously unbeaten Rotherham United.
Because he became used to losing key players at Blackburn, Mowbray altered the possession-based playing style to a counter-attacking one and he might be tempted to do the same at Sunderland with the squad at his disposal.
The Back Cats are eighth in the table and could go up to third with a win if other weekend results go their way with a future promotion charge certainly now out of the question.
Mowbray is a bona fide Boro legend and was a fan of the club growing up - he ended up representing them for nine years between 1982 and 1991 and also took charge as manager between 2010 and 2013, winning 61 of his 153 games at the helm.
It will be a bitter-sweet occasion for Mowbray as he travels to Middlesbrough with one of their big rivals for a derby match that has not been played since February 2018 when Callum McManaman's late goal secured a dramatic 3-3 draw at the Stadium of Light.
Sunderland haven't managed to win a league game at Boro since September 2005 - the season they were relegated from the Premier League with just 15 points.