Tottenham Hotspur can cement their advantage in the race to qualify for the Champions League by beating Sunderland, but Andre Villas-Boas’ side will need to be wary of a Black Cats outfit that saw off Premier League champions Manchester City in their last outing.
A Tottenham victory on Wearside could see the London club move three points clear of Everton and West Bromwich Albion, who face difficult tasks at home to Chelsea and away at Manchester United respectively. Spurs are currently fourth but only on goals scored, having the same points and goal difference as Everton, with the Baggies further back again.
Sunderland are in need of some consistency after a run of form that saw questions asked about Martin O’Neill’s leadership as the spectre of a New Year relegation battle reared its head. But good results against Reading and Southampton steadied the ship before City were sent packing through Adam Johnson’s second-half goal. The Black Cats can now focus on inching into the top half of the table.
O’Neill will have to do without Danny Rose, the England U-21 full-back on loan from Tottenham, with Phil Bardsley likely to deputise. Bardsley replaced Rose in the last few minutes of the win over City. Lee Cattermole and Wes Brown remain on the sidelines, and John O’Shea is recovering from an illness.
Both Clint Dempsey and Tom Huddlestone are close to a return for Tottenham, having struggled lately, while Benoit Assou-Ekotto is back in contention following a long-term layoff. Scott Parker is in line for his first start of the season too, while Moussa Dembele must shake off a knock if he is to be involved.