A resurgent Sunderland will be after a second straight win which they hope will lift them out of the bottom three, but Sam Allardyce sees his side face a tough test away to his former club West Ham United.
The hosts have not lost at home since back in August, and after their quick-fire comeback to earn a point away to struggling Norwich City they continue to fire on all cylinders. Last weekend they produced a brilliant attacking display to thrash Blackburn Rovers of the second tier and make it through to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup; where in the second half it just seemed as they were attacking at will, while playing some scintillating football in the process.
This one will be considerably more difficult against a side that will be compact an set up in such a way as to prevent their flair players from having much of an impact. Dimitri Payet will take some stopping on current form, but those two most recent outings for the Hammers have only served to increasingly emphasise the level of quality in depth available to boss Slaven Bilic, with Victor Moses able to come off the bench to good effect at Norwich and loan striker Emmanuel Emenike scoring a brace on his full debut at Ewood Park.
Unlike some of their relegation rivals, one cannot accuse Sunderland of lacking their necessary fight and desire needed in order to make a proper tilt at trying to stay in the top-flight. Clawing back a two-goal deficit at Liverpool was impressive enough, but they then went on to put in a tremendous second half performance to beat Manchester United, where Allardyce’s January signings really made names for themselves. Hardworking Tunisian winger Wahbi Kazri has particularly impressed.
Their current system of playing with wing-backs and three central defenders could boost the Black Cats here as it has the ability to prevent West Ham’s attacking stars from having too much of an influence on proceedings, but on either side Patrick van Aanholt and DeAndre Yedlin cannot afford to stray to far up the field an leave gaps to exploit. Allardyce knows many of the West Ham squad very well and will be aware of their strength, so he would likely be content with a point from this one.
Andy Carroll is fit enough to make his return for West Ham, who have been boosted by the availability of the influential Cheikhou Kouyate, whose appeal against his red card at Blackburn succeeded.
Jeremain Lens and Duncan Watmore remain out for Sunderland, but they have Jan Kirchhoff back as well as Billy Jones and Younes Kaboul.
Played for both – George McCartney: The Northern Irish left-back had two spells at both clubs, beginning his career at Sunderland in 1998 and staying for eight years until he joined West Ham, where he scored one goal in 61 appearances. He was a bit-part player in his second spell on Wearside and returned to Upton Park in 2012 after a successful loan spell, going on to play 34 times in the Premier League.