Sam Allardyce’s future is unknown as he is entering the last few months of his contract at West Ham without looking like renewing his contract with the East London side. However he could be managing in this fixture next campaign as many believe he will be a front runner for the Sunderland job in the summer after Gus Poyet was relieved of his duties this week. The experienced Dick Advocaat was appointed as his replacement, but he isn’t expected to be at the helm longer than the summer. He was chosen very much as a firefighter to come in and secure the club’s Premier League status as they drift nearer to the drop zone.
Advocaat has been in the management game for over 30 years, therefore he is seen to be a very good choice to lead Sunderland’s survival charge, but he has never managed in the Premier League. His last job was as the manager of Serbia and he has been more involved in international management then club management in recent years. Sunderland desperately need inspiration as they have only won one of their last ten matches. Their performance against Aston Villa was a disgrace as the players didn’t look like they cared and they shipped four goals to a team who have struggled in front of goal all season. The fact that they started the second half with ten men and Sebastian Larsson didn’t appear for a few minutes tells us everything we need to know about the attitude in the Sunderland dressing room. Advocaar has a huge job on his hands, and will be hoping to have a similar effect to Sherwood at Villa, not to follow in the footsteps of Felix Magath, who came to these shores with a similar pedigree last year.
West Ham’s season has stalled as of late, and they look to be settling for a place in mid table, after appearing once as potential European challengers. They haven’t won in seven league matches and are currently sitting tenth in the table. It is unknown whether the managerial situation has had an effect on West Ham’s season, but Allardyce may not have the drive to finish high up, if he isn’t going to be continuing the job next season. Whatever happens, West Ham have had a good season with the opportunity to build on it next season.
In the previous meeting, it was 1-1 with Jordi Gomez scoring from the spot, before Stewart Downing equalised for West Ham. In last season’s fixture at Upton Park, the match ended in a 0-0 draw, and a similar result won’t be either side any favours this weekend.
Adrian could be fit to retain his place after struggling with a finger injury. Winston Reid and Carlton Cole are both doubts for the home side, while Enner Valencia remains a couple of weeks away from a return. Andy Carroll and James Tomkins aren’t expected to feature again this season for West Ham.
Adam Johnson has returned to training this week after the club lifted his suspension due to his arrest earlier this month. He could feature this weekend, but next week looks more likely for him. Emanuele Giaccherini is expected to be missing until May, however Will Buckley could be fit to play a part this weekend.
West Ham have only scored four times in their last seven Premier League matches, and haven’t won over that period.
Sunderland have won the joint least amount of matches in the league this season with 4. Only Leicester have won as few matches as the North East club.
West Ham – Mark Noble
Mark Noble is perhaps one of the most underrated players in the division with many believing he should be in the England squad. He is very consistent in the midfield for the Hammers and has been in the first team for over ten years. Being loyal to one club is rare in the modern game, but Noble has done just that and has never received the attention that his talent deserves. As a player, he is combative in the middle of the park, with the ability to win the ball back, while he is very adept at moving the ball and playing defence splitting passes. Throughout the season, he often contributes with a few goals, which is important as a central midfielder in the modern game. He is 27 years old at the peak of his powers and is playing in the best West Ham side he has played in during his spell at the club. He is key to their style of play as the heartbeat of the side. He also takes set pieces which often cause the opposition problems. He only has one goal and two assists this season, but his overall contribution is a lot more than that and Sunderland need to shut him down on Saturday.
Sunderland – Jermain Defoe
Jermain Defoe was signed in January to score goals and save Sunderland’s season. He hasn’t had the desired effect yet, but he may come alive under the new manager. He is without doubt the biggest name in the Sunderland squad and is key to their survival hopes as they have been lacking goals this season. Nobody in the Sunderland squad has a better record in front of goal than Defoe. At the age of 32, he still has a lot to offer in the Premier League and will want to prove that in the remaining matches this season. He may also have his sights on an England recall, although that looks unlikely with the horde of young English strikers coming through. He has managed to score twice in his first 8 matches in the red and white, but he will want to improve his goal rate significantly in the remaining matches. Defoe started his career at West Ham and will want to score on his return to Upton Park on Saturday, his movement and quality in front of goal could turn out to be the difference.
It is going to be a game played by two sides low on confidence, but Sunderland may have a bounce in their step due to the managerial change made in the week. It will be interesting to see how Advocaat sets up on Saturday as he is facing a team and a manager who have a lot of Premier League experience. West Ham will be keen to beat a struggling Sunderland side, especially after such a long period without a win. I’m expecting the two sides to match each other and end up with a point each, which won’t help either side.
West Ham 1-1 Sunderland
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