West Ham United will be aiming to make it four wins out of four away from home when they travel to Wearside on Saturday to face beleaguered Sunderland, who lie miserably at the bottom of the table.
The hosts did at least put in a great deal from their visit to Manchester United last weekend, but could not come close to matching the quality of opponents who moved to the top of the Premier League with a 3-0 success which did not even require them to reach top gear. The situation at present is a grim one, and Head Coach Dick Advocaat is showing very few signs of optimism that they can compete this season, and has shown signs of dissatisfaction over the club’s summer transfer business.
They may have gone to Old Trafford with the intention to stay organised and perhaps pose something of a threat on the counter-attack, but there is a lack of belief and arguably a lack of desire emanating from the club. The first priority for Advocaat is to sort out the defence, with Younes Kaboul in particular having been prone to mistakes since arriving from Tottenham, but if results do not improve soon the Dutchman could decide that enough is enough. Victory here is a must.
Given their record on the road, West Ham are not the ideal opponents, but one crumb of comfort is that the Londoners have ironically found the going more difficult against the Premier League’s supposed lesser lights. Three highly polished and efficient displays have seen them past Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City, but at home where the onus is more on them to attack, winning matches has proved much less straightforward.
Indeed, they needed Cheikhou Kouyate to level in added time following a spell of intense pressure in the closing stages to come away with a share of the spoils against Norwich City in their last game. Some poor defending and a sloppy pass or two saw them concede twice in that one, so Slaven Bilic will be keen for his side to be neater here. In attack, he has an in-form striker in Diafra Sakho, who is doing superbly in his attempts to keep the fit again Andy Carroll among the substitutes.
Jermain Defoe could return to the Sunderland starting XI, with Jack Rodwell also potentially in line to come in after missing the game at Man Utd.
The away side have doubts over defender Winston Reid, who has a hip injury. Angelo Ogbonna and Alexandre Song are definitely unavailable.
Last Meeting: There was nothing to separate the sides back in December 2014 as they shared two first half goals. Sunderland broke the deadlock from the penalty spot midway through the first half, controversially awarded for a foul on Adam Johnson. A deflected strike from Stewart Downing brought the Hammers level seven minutes later, but the home team should have won it in the second half when Jozy Altidore missed a gilt-edged chance.
Played for both – Anton Ferdinand: The London-born central defender began his career at West Ham and was a regular presence in their back four for five seasons, helping them to promotion from the Championship and missing the decisive penalty in the FA Cup final in 2006. He moved on to Sunderland in the summer of 2008, and over three years he made 85 Premier League appearances without scoring.