Sunderland start their Premier League campaign away to one of the title favourites in Manchester City this weekend.
While most eyes will be on Pep Guardiola's team selection for his first game as City boss, David Moyes will also be leading out Sunderland for the first time.
Pre-season has been far from ideal for the Scot, who has seen limited transfer activity and a host of injuries damaging his preparation for the season opener at the Etihad Stadium.
It is likely to be too soon for Moyes to bring new signings Paddy McNair and Donald Love, so could this be the team that starts on Saturday evening?
33-year-old Defoe has returned to training this week, which will be a huge bonus for Moyes, who knows he will have to rely on the former England international to supply goals for his side.
Sunderland may hand a debut to centre-back Papy Djilobodji, who arrived from Chelsea last week. The Senegalese defender will most likely partner Younes Kaboul due to Lamine Kone's potential move to Everton.
Although it is looking like Kone will still be a Sunderland player come Saturday, it would be a strange call for Moyes to start a player who is on the brink of a move away.
If passed fit, Kirchhoff will provide the protection for the defence, which he did exceptionally during Sunderland's battle against relegation last term. The former Bayern Munich man has struggled for fitness throughout his time at the Stadium of Light, but has also shown himself to be a key player for the Black Cats.
He could be joined in midfield by Lee Cattermole and Jack Rodwell, with Yann M'Vila yet to return to Wearside after his loan deal ended at the end of last season.
If Sunderland are to return from the Etihad with anything, they will need a creative spark from either Wahbi Khazri or Fabio Borini, who will flank Defoe if he is passed fit. If Defoe is not able to start, then Borini will move into the main striker role, creating an opening for either Duncan Watmore or Jeremain Lens.
Moyes' team will need to be solid and expect to see very little of the ball, and must take their chances if they get any, making the fitness of Defoe pivotal to whether or they will find success on the opening day.