David Moyes' search for a first Premier League win as Sunderland boss will have an added element of intrigue on Monday night when his revamped squad face Everton -- the scene of his most impressive period as a manager -- at the Stadium of Light.
The meeting comes only four months after Sam Allardyce completed Sunderland's latest escape act with a 3-0 home win against the same opponents, a result that owed much to immense contributions at both ends of the pitch from Lamine Kone.
The Ivory Coast centre-back is a player rated highly by both clubs and on that night he was a tower of strength in defence, as he has been since joining from Ligue 1 club Lorient in January. He revived older Sunderland supporters' memories of the exploits of 1960s Wearside hero Charlie Hurley by charging forward to ensure victory with two of the three goals on the evening, both finished in style.
Still at Sunderland after being denied an £18 million move to Everton, Kone has returned unscathed from international duty. How he performs on Monday -- and he seems to have settled into a mood of admirable professionalism -- may play a large part in deciding whether Moyes can see Sunderland's season take off at the fourth attempt.
Two defeats and a draw have left his side in a familiar lowly position, one of five clubs that have just a single point. But late dealings turned a disappointing transfer window -- to be blamed not on him but on the Football Association's painfully slow process of naming Allardyce as England manager -- into a much more acceptable one.
When the window closed, Moyes was still short of goalkeeping cover, first-choice Vito Mannone having suffered a long-term injury, and support in attack for Jermain Defoe. He has now been able to recruit a free agent in striker Victor Anichebe, who played for him at Everton, and FIFA has approved the signing of former Portuguese under-21 international goalkeeper Mika, a move delayed on deadline day only by paperwork hitches.
Moyes now has almost as strong a squad as he might have been expected to assemble given the short time he had after replacing Allardyce. The failure to bring back last season's loan star Yann M'Vila after Russian side Rubin Kazan demanded an unrealistically high fee for a midfielder out of contract in January, was therefore the only serious setback in Sunderland's summer business.
For many Sunderland supporters, holding on to Kone, even if only for now, was as important as loan deals for Adnan Januzaj and Jason Denayer from the two Manchester clubs, the record £13.6m signing of Didier Ndong (also from Lorient), and Papy Djilobodji from Chelsea.
With other useful acquisitions, notably another former Everton man Steven Pienaar and Javier Manquillo on loan from Atletico Madrid, Moyes can be fairly satisfied with what he was finally able to achieve. The return from injury of classy midfielder Jan Kirchhoff adds vital quality and the manager now has viable options in all positions.
For all the movement in and out of the club, Moyes still has a squad that includes eight of the starting XI in the crucial win against Everton at the end of last season and all three substitutes used that night. This suggests a sensible balancing act has been accomplished, even if injury denies him the immediate use of all of those players.
The arrival of Ronald Koeman as Everton manager after Roberto Martinez was fired following the defeat at Sunderland, has revived Evertonian dreams of recapturing past glories. The strenuous attempts to sign Kone, even after another central defender, Ashley Williams, had been bought from Swansea, shows the kind of strength Koeman is seeking.
But Moyes is entitled to believe that he now has the players to match whatever Everton can throw at his team on Monday night.
Sunderland will not win 3-0 again, however well Kone plays. They must expect a tough challenge from a side that has, to no great surprise, made a much better start to the season.
A draw would not be the end of the world for Moyes. But a narrow victory is within reach and would represent a welcome sign that Sunderland need not resign themselves to yet another season of constant struggle.