Sunderland vs. West Ham Preview | Team News, Key Men and Stats

Sunderland vs. West Ham Preview | Team News, Key Men and Stats

After a series of abysmal performances, hosts Sunderland find themselves rooted to the bottom of the Barclays Premier League table having amassed only two points from their opening seven fixtures. Visitors, West Ham United, have started the season magnificently, and lie third in the English top flight. Polar opposite starts for the sides, yet this encounter has the potential to throw up a surprise. West Ham has astounded the football world with away victories at Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City to start the season, so many will expect the visit to the lowly Wearsiders to end in the favour of the East Londoners. The Black Cats however will already harbour fears of a draining relegation scrap, and will regard fixtures like this as must win. Dick Advocaat was begged to stay on as Sunderland boss in the summer, but it won’t be long before the big wigs at The Stadium of Light’s patience reaches breaking point, and the Dutchman is sent packing to a likely retirement. A win this weekend will ease the pressure, but the home team will be up against it against this season’s surprise package.

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Team News

Sunderland

One positive for home manager, Dick Advocaat, is that his side remains relatively injury free for this fixture. Midfield enforcer, Jack Rodwell, looks set to return after a minor ankle injury, and his presence will be welcomed in the heart of the Sunderland midfield. Former Celtic full back and summer signing, Adam Matthews, is also suffering with an ankle injury and is not expected to appear until the end of October.

West Ham

Slaven Bilic has no new injury concerns after the home draw with Norwich City, and it is expected that centre half, Angelo Ogbonna, will be fit for this encounter. Alex Song and Enner Valencia remain unavailable for selection with ankle and knee injuries respectively, and won’t be available for at least several more weeks.

Head to Head

Encounters between these top flight rivals have been closely run since the first meeting in 1923, with Sunderland tasting victory on 31 occasions, and West Ham taking the spoils in 34 clashes. 23 have ended tied, proving the fixture to have been well matched. Recent clashes have gone the way of the visitors, with West Ham remaining unbeaten in the last four meetings, including two victories in this period.

Key Men

Sunderland: Jeremain Lens

Since joining Sunderland from Ukrainian side, Dynamo Kiev, the Dutchman has proven to be one of the Black Cats most effective attacking outlets. The forward is dangerous when in possession, and has the pace to trouble defences. Sunderland have registered only six goals thus far, with Lens playing a direct role in half of these, but the hosts will need the likes of Lens to step up and claw his side away from the dreaded relegation spots. In Jermaine Defoe, Sunderland has a goal scorer; in Jeremain Lens, they have a chance creator. If the pair can forge a partnership, the potential for goals is very much present on Wearside. Fans will pin their hopes on exciting players like Lens, and it is in encounters like this where stars of the Dutchman’s quality must shine.

West Ham: Diafra Sakho

The injuries suffered by Enner Valencia and Andy Carroll placed a lot of pressure of Senegalese forward, Diafra Sakho, but the former Metz man has stepped up in the absence of his colleagues. Three goals in his opening seven appearances is a healthy return in the Premier League, and Sakho will be looking to push on with this record in order to cement his place in the starting line on the return of Valencia and Carroll. No top flight striker can be successful without the support of those around him, and Sakho has been blessed by the support offered by the form of wingers, Dimitri Payet and Victor Moses. The wide pair have been fantastic for the Hammers thus far, and Sakho has benefitted from their illustrious attacking play. Sakho thrives upon scoring goals, and the opportunity of facing a side that has leaked sixteen goals already will be an enticing proposition for the forward. Surrounded by quality, Sakho will be given opportunities to find the net, and do not be surprised to see the players name on the scoresheet this weekend.

Prediction

The form guide points firmly towards an away victory in this fixture, and after wins at Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool, it would not be unwise to expect the Hammers to take all three points. Dick Advocaat’s side remain winless at home this season, whereas West Ham can boast a 100% away record. Even the most faithful of Hammers fans will agree that this run cannot last, and a Sunderland backlash is to be expected after such a poor start to the season. The game is a must win for Dick Advocaat, and anything less may not be enough to keep the Dutchman in a job. The game will be tight, but I fear this may end in more disappointment for the home fans.

Sunderland 1-2 West Ham United