Competition: Premier League – West Ham United vs. Sunderland
Venue: Upton Park – Saturday, February 27 – 12:45 GMT (07:45 ET)
Match Odds: West Ham 5/6 – Draw 13/5 – Sunderland 16/5
The Hammers are currently in seventh, hunting down a European spot and have a chance to heap the pressure on Manchester United and Southampton who sit above them.
With the advantage of playing before their rivals, Slaven Bilic’s side can lift themselves to fifth with victory and they’ll come into this game with confidence after a resounding 5-1 win away at Blackburn in the FA Cup last weekend.
Judging by the high standards West Ham have set themselves this season, it’s fair to say they’ve stuttered slightly in the Premier League recently – since a run of three consecutive victories, they’ve managed just one win in their last five (D2, L2).
Sunderland, by contrast, are scrapping for every point in a relegation dogfight at the bottom of the table as they sit in nineteenth, although they’re only one point off safety.
Sam Allardyce has had the luxury of two weeks to prepare his players for yet another vital fixture and they’ve been on a warm weather training trip to Dubai, following an excellent 2-1 win at home to Manchester United last time out.
The Black Cats have lost just two of their last seven games (W3, D2) and will be hoping that they are just starting to find some form at a crucial time in the season.
The reverse fixture provided entertainment and eventually ended in a 2-2 draw at the Stadium of Light back in October.
Winston Reid (hamstring), Enner Valencia (ankle) and Andy Carroll (hip) could all return to the squad for West Ham this weekend following injuries, while Diafra Sakho (thigh) who has been out since November is back in full training but may not be risked. Joey O’Brien (hamstring) and James Tomkins (calf) remain out.
Sunderland have a number of injury doubts heading into this one. Billy Jones (hip), Younes Kaboul (ankle), Jan Kirchhoff (hamstring), Seb Larsson (knee), Jeremain Lens (hernia) and Duncan Watmore (ankle) are all likely to miss the game with injury.
West Ham’s last five: L/D/W/L/D
Sunderland’s last five: L/D/L/D/W
Key Stat: Sunderland have failed to win away from home against a Premier League side in the top 12 this season (P8, W0, D1, L7).
Key Player: Dimitri Payet – It’s impossible to look past the Frenchman as the key player in any West Ham game at the moment. He’s in the form of his life and is a frightening prospect for any defence. With seven goals and five assists in 19 Premier League appearances this season, he’s bound to be the difference once again this weekend.
West Ham 2-1 Sunderland – West Ham will fancy their chances against a Sunderland side that don’t travel particularly well. Sam Allardyce returns to another of his former clubs and will make life difficult for the Hammers, but the home side should have enough to edge it.