Dick Advocaat takes charge of Sunderland for the first time and the need for three points is great as they face another out-of-form team in West Ham United,
In the home dugout, Sam Allardyce has come under a little scrutiny of late following a poor run of results, and this week he was linked with the vacant position at the Black Cats. With Advocaat’s contract only lasting until the end of the season, the 60-year-old has been linked with moving to Wearside in the summer.
His immediate concern will be arrest the Hammers’ slump, with the 40-point barrier still yet to be overcome. Last time out against Arsenal, they occasionally looked capable of bouncing back to earn a point, missing a couple of presentable chances, but eventually fell victim to some sublime one-touch football.
The manner of Sunderland’s abysmal 4-0 loss to fellow strugglers Aston Villa ensured that Gustavo Poyet’s sacking seemed inevitable, and the likeable Uruguayan was axed on Monday. The task now for Advocaat will be to inspire a side that has lacked identity and spark all season, finding goals and indeed victories hard to come by.
The ease in which Villa grabbed all four of their goals was simply alarming, as Gabriel Agbonlahor and Christian Benteke were handed unbelievable amounts of freedom. More intensity is required, as they are in such a vulnerable position in the league, hovering just a point above the relegation zone.
James Tomkins will be absent for West Ham after undergoing surgery on his shoulder, with strikers Andy Carroll and Enner Valencia also out. Winston Reid is a major doubt.
Sunderland captain Lee Cattermole completes a two-match ban, while Emmanuele Giaccherini is still out and Will Buckley is doubtful.
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