Saints boss Jim Mallinder admits he is impressed with the progression of Sale Sharks.
And Mallinder feels his former club will be eager to get stuck into title-chasing Northampton at the AJ Bell Stadium on Saturday (kick-off 2pm).
Sale currently sit sixth in the Aviva Premiership standings, having recorded nine wins in their 16 league games to date.
They suffered a 33-14 defeat at Saints earlier in the season, but have bounced back admirably.
And Mallinder, who has played and coached at the Sharks, knows they are now a force to be reckoned with.
“They’ve been pretty impressive to be honest,” he said.
“They had a poor season last season, without a doubt, a couple of players leaving them, but it’s not done them any harm.
“They’ve worked hard together, they play a fairly basic game and it’s effective.
“They’ve got two big, strong centres and Danny Cipriani, who brings experience at half-back with (Dwayne) Peel.
“They’ve got two sort of sevens who like to get over the ball, hold you up in the tackle and they’re a very effective team, who are playing well at the moment.”
And on their development since the defeat at Franklin’s Gardens back in September, he said: “They have improved and you’ve only got to see their performances.
“The interesting thing will be to see whether a little bit of rest has been good or bad for them. You don’t quite know.
“They’ve had three weeks off over this LV= Cup period so they’ve had that time without a game but I’m sure they’ll be fresh and raring to get into us.”