Sunderland will be looking to close the four point gap between themselves and the safety line with a win at home to a Bournemouth side that lies six points and four places above them in the Premier League table.
The hosts had to soak up a lot of pressure in the opening 40 minutes of their game last weekend at Tottenham before taking the lead through the in-form Patrick van Aanholt following a rare foray forward. However, they committed the cardinal sin of conceding an avoidable equaliser just moments later and were then blown away somewhat in the second half as recent defensive signing Jan Kirchhoff endured a debut to forget after coming off the bench.
But this is the kind of game that will define Sunderland’s season and so they desperately need to take maximum points, so manager Sam Allardyce will do everything he can in order to prevent the visitors from playing with their usual fluency. As for van Aanholt, who has felt his confidence levels increase noticeably since Allardyce took charge in October, he will hope to extend a run which has seen him find the net in each of the last three Premier League matches.
It was a story of utter Bournemouth dominance in their last outing at home to Norwich City, as they took the game to their opponents from the start and came away with a 3-0 victory which reflected the balance of play. It is unlikely that they will find it such plain sailing here, so Eddie Howe will be keen for his side to play their own way and not be drawn into a physical scrap, which their team is not best equipped for despite the occasional tenacity of midfielder Harry Arter.
After missing a couple of very presentable opportunities on his debut, it will have been a huge relief for Benik Afobe to get on the scoresheet, and his strength will certainly offer problems for the Sunderland backline, who struggled to contain a similar kind of threat in the shape of Watford’s Odion Ighalo back in December. If he gets the service, Afobe has shown countless times over the past 18 months that he can fill his boots with goals, so if he is fit, it will be an intriguing battle between him and the experienced Jermain Defoe at the other end.
DeAndre Yedlin is back for Sunderland after being ineligible for the game at parent club Tottenham, but Steven Fletcher could miss out due to illness. Dame N’Doye could make his debut after arriving on loan from Trabzonspor.
Afobe faces a fitness test after being taken off as a precaution against Norwich, and Bournemouth have further doubts in the shape of Josh King and Matt Ritchie.