The AJ Bell Stadium stages one of its most important games of the season this Friday night – kick off 19.45 – when Sale, currently fifth on 55 points, take on Saracens, in second place, and given the strength of their squad, one of the favourites to win the Premiership final in June.
The Sharks, even with home advantage may not be the neutrals’ choice to win, but having drawn their last game against Bath (24-24 down at the Rec), it’s essential they earn at least four points against Saracens.
The match will be a huge challenge for Sale who’ve won only once in their last four Premiership games, so if the North West club are to reach the top four, a significant improvement in form is required.
Coached by Alex Sanderson, the Sharks need all their international stars, particularly World Cup winner Faf de Klerk, to be capable of delivering a match winning performance.
The South African is well used to the big match occasion and, taking into account how competitive the top half of the league is just now, the scrum half has the potential to inspire his team-mates.
In the first meeting between the two sides in November, Saracens won 25-14 – in fact, the London club have a far superior record when it comes to Premiership matches – Saracens and Sale have met 60 times with the Londoners winning 39 and Sale 19.
England star Owen Farrell back in form for Saracens
Saracens arrive in Manchester following an excellent victory by 27-23 against Bristol Bears, their 13th victory in 19 matches, in which fly half Owen Farrell, who missed the Six Nations because of injury, played a prominent role.
If he’d been fit, Farrell would have carried on as England captain, and now that he’s back for Saracens, Sale need to be aware of his threat because if they give penalties away, the visitors’ number 10 will put the points over.
Joint top try scorers in the Premiership with 75 tries, Saracens have so many outstanding players – Farrell, Maro Itoje, Alex Lozowski, Max Malins, Jamie George and Billy Vunipola to name a few only – that yet another league win is more than probable.
Forty thousand turned up at the Spurs’ ground to watch the Saracens-Bristol game, and while the crowd will be nothing like as large as that on Friday night at the AJ Bell Stadium, the significance of the game can’t be exaggerated.
Sale have not reached the make-or-break moment in their league campaign, but beating Saracens would be a massive achievement, but to do that the Sharks have to find sufficient power to smash one of the best defences in the Premiership, one that has conceded only 43 tries in 19 matches.