The Wearsiders are four points clear with a game in hand and have suffered just one defeat in 28 League matches this season. They won 2-0 at Vale Park barely four weeks ago but Rudge, whose team have lost six of their last seven outings, said: "Sunderland are a class act but we've gone to places like this and earned results before. There's no reason why we can't do so again."
Vale have Peter Beadle, Tony Naylor, Michael Walsh, Jan Jansson and Dave Barnett back in contention, while the hosts could recall Alex Rae.
At Portman Road, second-placed Ipswich face Barnsley, who have taken seven points from three tough matches since Town won 1-0 at Oakwell last month.
Ipswich are set to be unchanged, with on-loan Samassi Abou continuing up front in place of the injured David Johnson, while the Tykes' top scorer Ashley Ward is suspended.
Bottom-placed Crewe Alexandra travel to Queen's Park Rangers, whose manager Gerry Francis has warned his side not to take the game lightly. "They're in the position we were in a few weeks ago, so we must be on guard. We're still not out of trouble ourselves," he said. Crewe are without dead-leg victim Rodney Jack, so Steve Anthrobus is likely to deputise.
West Brom visit Huddersfield hoping to turn a corner of poor form. Their defender Jason van Blerk said: "We must start learning from our mistakes. We've been struggling to hang on to the lead when we take it."
Graham Taylor is due to attend Watford's match against Stockport at Vicarage Road today after missing four weeks with a throat abscess. Kenny Jackett will still be in temporary charge of the Hornets, but Taylor is hoping to resume duties on Monday.
The Wolves manager Colin Lee may keep Neil Emblen on the bench for the meeting with Norwich, even though he scored against Bolton last week. Norwich's Darren Eadie is poised to return to the first team after four games out with a knee injury. He will replace Keith O'Neill, who will be out for at least a month with a pulled hamstring.
Bradford, at Swindon, have defender Ashley Westwood available for the first time this season after an ankle injury.
Bolton's Mark Fish looks set to be kept on the bench by on-loan duo Jon Newsome and Paul Warhurst at Tranmere.
Bristol City are looking to bank some points in their fight against relegation at home to Crystal Palace, while cash-strapped Oxford play host to Birmingham.Reuse content