This encounter was a Premier League fixture eight years ago, but now both sides are aiming to escape the third tier of English football.
Sunderland are about to embark on their fourth successive season in League One, a campaign where expectation levels are as high as ever.
After losing in the 2018-19 playoff final and then finishing in eighth place a year later, the Black Cats fell short once again last season, finishing in fourth place and losing to Lincoln City in the playoff semi-finals.
Manager Lee Johnson, who took charge in December 2020, is tasked with guiding Sunderland to the Championship, though further activity in the transfer market is required if they are to build a competitive squad for the new campaign. Only four fresh faces have walked through the doors thus far, with nine players having departed, leaving Johnson with little squad depth.
The 40-year-old is hopeful that new recruits can be added before their season opener against Wigan, a side they are set to battle with in the race for promotion.
Sunderland – who claimed three wins and three draws during pre-season – were beaten in both encounters against the Latics last season, losing 1-0 on home soil in December before suffering a 2-1 away defeat in April.
Victory on Saturday, however, would be a great way to open their account for the new season and to please the 30,000 fans expected at the Stadium of Light.
After a disconcerting couple of years, Wigan Athletic fans can approach the new campaign with optimism and the prospect of a potential promotion push.
In the midst of serious financial concerns and a spell in administration, the Latics suffered relegation from the Championship in 2019-20 before avoiding another demotion by the skin of their teeth last season, finishing one point above the bottom four.
The takeover by Phoenix 2021 Ltd, led by Bahrain businessman Talal Mubarak al-Hammad, has instilled belief into the club for a brighter future, with a top-six finish set to be their target for this season.
Head coach Liam Richardson – who was rewarded with a three-year deal in April, having previously been in temporary charge – is now preparing for a challenging opening fixture against Sunderland, though confidence will be high after, not only doing the double over them last season, but also having won all five of their pre-season friendlies this summer.
Nine new signings over the summer has bolstered Wigan's squad and if they can gel quickly under Richardson, this should help build a platform for the Latics to have a much more enjoyable season this time around.
This match may, however, come too soon for new recruit Alex Pritchard, who has had a stop-start pre-season due to testing positive for coronavirus.
Either Will Grigg or Ross Stewart, who both scored in a 2-1 friendly victory against Hull City last week, is expected to start up front, while wingers Lynden Gooch and Aiden O'Brien will be hoping they can force their way into the first XI.
As for Wigan, nine summer signings have been made so far and Richardson is set to use four of five of these in his starting lineup.
However, defender Jack Whatmough – who has joined from Portsmouth – is carrying a suspension over from last season and so will miss the opening game, while winger Jordan Jones is also banned after breaching COVID-19 protocols with Rangers at the end of last season.
Striker Charlie Wyke, who scored 26 league goals for Sunderland last season, could make his league debut against his former club on Saturday, as could midfielder Max Power who also left the Stadium of Light to join the Latics.
Sunderland possible starting lineup:
Burge; Winchester, Wright, Flanagan, Neil; O'Nein, Evans, Embleton; Gooch, Grigg, McGeady
Wigan Athletic possible starting lineup:
Amos; Darikwa, Long, Naylor, Pearce; Cousins, Power; Lang, Aasgard, Dodoo; Wyke
We say: Sunderland 1-1 Wigan Athletic
A positive start to the new campaign could be crucial for both sides if they are to compete at the top end of League One this season, and a victory on Saturday would send a big statement out to the rest of their competitors in the division.
The two teams are set to name strong starting lineups and with little to separate them, a score draw could be on the cards at the Stadium of Light.