Jim Mallinder believes Saints are a better team now than when they last visited Sale in the Aviva Premiership.
And he has urged his men to maintain their fine form throughout the second half of the season.
Saints were slayed 19-6 at Sale last March, with Mallinder describing it as a ‘bad day at the office’.
But they return to the AJ Bell Stadium this weekend with seven successive wins under their belt.
And Mallinder, who steered his side to a Premiership and Amlin Challenge Cup double last season, said: “We were a good side when we went there last March, but we didn’t play well on the day.
“Our international players came back for their first game after being away for two months and we didn’t play well together, whether it was mental or technical, or a mixture of both.
“We’ve certainly improved as a team this year - and you’ve seen that in some of our attacking play.
“It doesn’t mean too much at this stage of the season.
“It’s good we’re improving and getting better, but we’ve got to make sure we continue that in this second half of the season.”
Saints thrashed Sale 43-10 when the Sharks visited Franklin’s Gardens in October.
But Mallinder is adamant Steve Diamond’s men, who were beaten 41-16 at Wasps last weekend, will pose a real threat to his table-toppers this weekend.
“Sale were probably unlucky to lose to Leicester a couple of weeks ago - they lost right at the end,” he said.
“Last week, they made a few changes and perhaps didn’t quite have their minds switched on, but no doubt they’ll be fully motivated and Steve Diamond will have them ready to go.
“We’ve known for the past few years what they can do. They can turn sides over.
“They’re developing and they’re hard to beat. They can vary their gameplan and they’ve got some very good young backs.
“Danny Cipriani is playing well and outside that there’s some lively new talent coming through.
“They’re a tough side to beat.”