Sunderland come onto this game on the back of an upturn in form, winning 3 out of their last 6 matches, including the 1-0 win over Man City over the Christmas period. The team are however coming off the back of 2 defeats in the league, and a draw away at Championship side Bolton in the F.A. Cup. Manager Martin O’Neill has ruled Carlos Cuellar and Danny Rose out of the game at the stadium of light, however better news for Sunderland fans is that both John O’Shea and Stephane Sessegnon trained yesterday and are expected to feature. New signing Alfred N’Diaye may make the bench subject to international clearance.
West Ham’s injury news is improving each week, with Sam Allardyce almost possessing a full squad to choose from. Loan signing Marouane Chamakh will go straight into the squad and could make his debut for the club. Other loanee Joe Cole will also make his ‘second debut’ in the league and is expected to start after his efforts in the F.A. Cup. Andy Carroll is still out with a knee injury, whilst Modibo Maiga is on international duty with Mali ahead of the African Cup of Nations. The team are unbeaten in 2013, and won last time out against Norwich.
Players to watch out for
- Steven Fletcher – Almost goes without saying he is Sunderland’s main goal threat with 8 league goals this season and 3 assists (the second highest scorer for Sunderland has a paltry 3 goals). The game may turn on whether West Ham can keep him quiet.
- Simon Mignolet – the keeper is in great form this season, with a memorable string of saves leading the side to their win over Man City. He has made a whopping 84 saves this season, also producing 7 clean sheets to help keep Sunderland’s head above water.
- Adam Johnson – the winger has provided 4 assists so far this season, and on his day can hit heights that has seen him win international recognition for England.
- Kevin Nolan – he is the leading scorer for West Ham in the league with 5 goals. Hasn’t hit top form for a while but remains a threat with his movement in and around the box. Also used to play for Newcastle so will relish the atmosphere at stadium of light
- Joe Cole – visibly lifted the crowd and his team mates against Man United in the F.A. cup last time around. If he can replicate his performance he is capable of changing any game.
- Winston Reid – has been a constant presence in the heart of a tight West Ham defence which is the 5th best in the league.
Line ups (probable):
Sunderland (4-2-3-1): Mignolet, Bardsley, O’Shea, Kilgallon, Gardner, Colback, Larsson, Sessegnon ,Mclean, Johnson, Fletcher
West Ham (4-4-1-1): Jääskeläinen, Demel, Reid, Collins, O’Brien, Diarra, Noble, J Cole, O’Neil, Nolan, C Cole.
Prediction: A tight affair last time ended in a 1-1 draw, I expect a similar encounter this time. 1-1
Where To Watch Online: Sunderland vs. West Ham