Sale's championship credentials will be put to the test against Saracens at Vicarage Road on Sunday.
The Sharks' tenuous grip on a Guinness Premiership top-four spot, loosened by their shock home defeat by Worcester, will come under more pressure from a Saracens side looking to halt a potentially disastrous three-match losing run.
"This is a big game for us and a chance to turn around the recent disappointments," said Sarries director of rugby Alan Gaffney.
Sale's three-game winning run came to an abrupt halt last Friday and they are seeking to avoid back-to-back defeats for the first time this year.
"We have eight games left to make sure that we finish in the top four," said director of rugby Philippe Saint Andre.
"Saracens are close behind us in the table and we need to give this game our best shot, especially after losing three game points last week.
"March is a crucial month for us in that we play Saracens away then Gloucester and Bath at home."
Saracens forward Kris Chesney, 34, who made his 300th appearance for the club earlier this season, will equal the all-time Premiership appearance record on Sunday, joining Simon Shaw and Neal Hatley on 193 matches.
"Reaching 300 appearances for Saracens was a tremendous honour and, if I get the chance to equal the Premiership record on Sunday, it will be a proud moment," said Chesney.
"I've not got a great deal to shout about in terms of international honours so things like this are a real highlight for me and it's a fantastic feeling having been involved with one club for so long."
Bristol have gained just three league points on their travels this season and have not won on the road in the Premiership since January 2007 but they will fancy their chances of breaking their duck at bottom club Leeds.
Richard Hill's men are boosted by the return of England scrum-half Shaun Perry, who makes his first appearance for the club since mid-December after recovering from a fractured windpipe.
"I'm delighted to have Shaun Perry back," said Hill. "He's been desperate to get back in there but has been training hard.
"We've been cautious with him but he's 100% now and will be a huge asset for us.
"We're going to go out and try and enjoy it. That's the message we've been sending out in the last few games trying to develop our attacking game.
"But Leeds will have targeted this one and their next couple of games as they strive to avoid relegation.
"It's their Cup final and we know that. So we'll be faced with a fierce opponent but we'll be up for that challenge."
Wasps have chosen axed England international Danny Cipriani on the bench for the visit of Harlequins and welcome back centre Riki Flutey and lock George Skivington from injury.