Hammers’ foul play
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West Ham, with just one win in their past 12 Premier League matches, will be desperate for victory against struggling Sunderland on Saturday to ensure a promising season doesn’t fall apart – but that desperation is likely to lead to a busy evening for the match officials.
The clubs’ last five meetings have led to 16 or more fouls in each game, with the Hammers committing 11 or more in each of them.
The nadir came in their first clash this season – the 1-1 draw at the Stadium of Light, where there were 29 fouls overall and 18 by the London club.
With Sunderland busting a gut to impress new manager Dick Advocaat, who has been brought in to keep the 17th-placed North-East club in the division, the tackles are bound to be flying in again at Upton Park on Saturday.
Hammers manager Sam Allardyce, who was so angry after last weekend’s 3-0 drubbing at Arsenal that he didn’t attend the post-match conference, will see this game as the ideal opportunity to halt the London club’s slide down the table to 10th from fifth on Boxing Day.
His assistant, Neil McDonald, who stood in for Allardyce in front of the media, certainly sees it that way, as West Ham have largely played teams in the top half of the table since they trounced lowly Hull 3-0 in January.
Sunderland are the first of a series of relegation-threatened opponents for the Hammers, so their average of 11 fouls per game seems to sure to be matched or increased as they try to climb back up the table.