Burnley v Sheffield United: Paul Heckingbottom ready to defy odds all over again
Burnley romped to the second-tier title but have lost 11 of their first 13 games, while Sheffield United are the only other side in the Premier League with a solitary win to show for their efforts so far.
Play-off winners Luton Town, who were viewed as contenders to take Derby County's unwanted record of the lowest points total in Premier League history, are the best-performing promoted side with nine points.
Everton's sanction, which is being challenged by the Merseyside club, has added a level of intrigue to the battle for survival but the promoted teams remain odds-on to be relegated.
With points at a premium against the rest, winning the mini-league at the bottom is non-negotiable.
Burnley struck the first blow by beating Luton at Kenilworth Road in October but a home record that reads seven straight defeats offers encouragement to Sheffield United ahead of a crucial clash at Turf Moor.
After punching above their weight to follow big-spending Burnley into the Premier League, Paul Heckingbottom is sensing another opportunity to create a siege mentality.
"We've got a chance to defy the odds," said the Blades boss.
"We've done it before. It wasn't talked about a lot last year because we performed on the pitch and didn't want anything to derail us.
"I'm conscious that I don't want it to become an excuse and a reason why we can't achieve it.
"We've already shown we can. Yes it was a different league but we had different challenges.
"It's a big opportunity. Who knows, some people could step up this season and become absolute legends here. That's the aim.
"What a story that would be. It would be even bigger than last year, wouldn't it?"
Of the team that secured second spot in the Championship, Iliman Ndiaye and Sander Berge – who will line up for Burnley this weekend – moved on to leave huge holes in Heckingbottom's side.
Cameron Archer and Gus Hamer arrived in August for a combined sum of £33m but Heckingbottom has found it challenging to build on the foundations laid last season.
"As much as we wanted to, we weren't like a Luton who managed to keep their squad together," he said.
"We wanted to keep the squad together and build. We knew finances would be tight so just wanted to add to that. Unfortunately, we weren't in a strong enough position to do that.
"It's been a big hinderance but we wouldn't swap anything. We've done it against the odds and not the same way as every other team.
"We've been written off many a time and people have been against us. It's been part of what we've done. This one is a big challenge in the toughest league in the world but that's what we're here for. We've fought so hard to get here and have overcome so many things.
"We can't shy away from the fact we're in a tough position and only us can get ourselves out of it."
With only four points separating the Blades from 17th-placed Luton, the situation is far from irretrievable as the season approaches the halfway mark.
Thirty-five points has typically been enough for survival and that is United's target – but Heckingbottom is conscious that his side must learn to walk before they can run.
"I think you've got to aim for that," he said.
"Ultimately, that's so far away with the stage we're at in the season and the teams that are around us.
"We just want to get in the habit of picking up points because we'll not know until much closer to the end of the season. We need to get in that habit faster than the others.
"Then come closer to the end of the season, everybody knows what they need and it becomes a little rat race for the finish line."
Perhaps surprisingly given their 101-point haul last season and a summer spend in excess of £100m, Burnley prop up the division after 13 games.
The Clarets played attractive football on their way out of the second tier but Vincent Kompany's philosophy has hit a brick wall in the Premier League.
Despite their struggles this season – particularly on home soil – Heckingbottom is expecting to come up against the same Burnley they faced in the Championship.
"He's still sticking to his principles but is finding it more difficult," said Heckingbottom. "It's a more difficult and unforgiving league.
"They've still tried to recruit in the same way in terms of the style of player, so while there have been changes in his shape, he's tried to stick to his principles and play the same way."
As he prepares for a reunion with the midfielder, Heckingbottom is not wasting any time thinking about what might have been had he stayed.
"It's irrelevant," said Heckingbottom. "It's pointless spending time on it because he's not our player.
"There are bigger things for me to worry about. He's gone and good luck to him.
"He's a great kid and a good footballer. He carried himself really well here despite what was said about him. He was a fantastic pro."