Nube Negra remained among eight high-class possible runners for the Betfair Tingle Creek Chase (2.25) on Monday, and will lead the home team's defence in the absence of unbeaten chaser Shishkin.
The seven-year-old, who won the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham on his most recent start, bids for his first Grade 1 on Saturday and will clash once again with the 6-5 favourite Chacun Pour Soi.
Nube Negra, a best-priced 2-1 for Sandown, finished a length ahead of the Irish contender when second in last season's Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, but was 25 lengths behind him when third at Punchestown in April.
Trainer Dan Skelton said: "It's a Grade 1 and Willie [Mullins] is bringing over Chacun Pour Soi, who is very good, and although it’s his first start of the season I wouldn’t think he'll need the run.
"We beat him at Cheltenham but he beat us on slower ground at Punchestown last season. I’ve got our horse as well as I can. The forecast looks like it will give us decent ground, which suits us a lot. We know we've got a big task but I’m really looking forward to it."
Skelton added: "A repeat of that Cheltenham run will put him very close and with Chacun Pour Soi there he'll maybe need a little bit more, but he's improved a bit."
Mullins could be represented by 2021 Ryanair Chase winner Allaho as the trainer bids to win the Tingle Creek for the first time since 2016. Allaho finished ahead of Nube Negra and second to Chacun Pour Soi when the pair met in the Champion Chase at Punchestown in April.
Paul Nicholls could call upon Hitman and last season's Celebration Chase winner Greaneteen in his attempt to land a record-extending 12th Tingle Creek, while 2019 Tingle Creek winner Defi Du Seuil, Captain Guinness and Cheddleton complete the eight remaining.
The other Grade 1 on Sandown's card, the Close Brothers Henry VIII Novices' Chase (1.50), has received 12 entries including the exciting Third Time Lucki, an easy winner of a Grade 2 last time for Skelton.
The six-year-old is unbeaten in two starts since switching to fences and his trainer said: "He's leading the ranks in the two-mile novice chase division and the ground will be in his favour, so he's got to go.
"I always thought he'd be very good and I’m delighted it's proving that way. He loves his fences and they've been the making of him."
The Colin Tizzard-trained War Lord and Minella Drama for Donald McCain could renew their rivalry after only a short-head separated the pair in a graduation chase at Carlisle this month.
Betfair Tingle Creek
Sponsors bet: 6-5 Chacun Pour Soi, 2 Nube Negra, 7-2 Greaneteen, 10 Captain Guinness, Allaho, 20 Hitman, 25 Defi Du Seuil, 100 Cheddleton