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Black Cats battle Burnley in crucial relegation encounter

The Premier League returns this weekend with plenty of exciting action taking place between sides at both ends of the table.

Sunderland, 3/1 with Coral to be relegated, will host fellow relegation strugglers Burnley at the Stadium of Light in a vital fixture in this season’s battle to avoid the drop.

Elsewhere, Louis van Gaal’s Red Devils host the top flight’s bottom side Leicester City, and QPR are aiming to secure their first away points of the season at Stoke City.

Sunderland v Burnley
Poyet’s stuttering side will welcome fellow relegation battlers Burnley to Wearside, with Sunderland currently occupying 16th spot, level on points with the Clarets but a place below them.

The Black Cats, 23/20 to triumph, have won just one of their last 12 league outings and are without a point since the turn of the year.

Although, they could welcome back Adam Johnson and Wes Brown from calf and knee problems respectively, but Lee Cattermole remains a doubt and Jack Rodwell is suspended.

After an encouraging run either side of Christmas, with draws against Manchester City and Newcastle United as well as a win over QPR, Burnley have been inflicted with back-to-back defeats.

Dyche will be without Matthew Taylor, Stephen Ward and Kevin Long through injury, but will be relying on star striker Danny Ings for a source of inspiration.

England Under-21 international Ings, who is being linked with a switch to Anfield, has netted in his last three league appearances and is vital to his team’s chances of clawing past the Black Cats. The sought-after striker is 6/1 to open the scoring at the Stadium of Light.

Manchester United v Leicester
Nigel Pearson’s faltering Foxes, 9/1 to win, stunned United earlier in the campaign with a sensational 5-3 triumph at the King Power Stadium, as Van Gaal’s side scuppered an early two-goal lead.

The Red Devils, odds-on 1/3 favourites, return to Premier League action after a poor FA Cup goalless draw with League Two side Cambridge United last time out.

However, United are in good form at Old Trafford, losing just once in their last 10 home games, and also easily toppled Leicester’s relegation rivals QPR with a comfortable 2-0 victory in their previous league outing.

Van Gaal’s top four hopefuls are available at 23/20 to win to nil for a second consecutive league clash.

Champions League football is the main target for United’s Dutch boss this season, and his side are still in a good position for a return to Europe’s elite club competition, currently sitting in fourth spot. They will have potent pair Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata back after being rested for their recent cup tie, with their superb skipper 6/5 to score his first-ever United goal against Leicester anytime.

The Foxes are rapidly running out of time and games in their search for survival, after slipping three points adrift of safety at the bottom of the table.

Although, Pearson’s struggling side will take comfort from a recent rejuvenation, having gone unbeaten in three games in all competitions, including two wins on their travels. Leonardo Ulloa bagged a brace in the reverse clash and is 10/3 to net anytime.

Stoke v QPR
The last time these two teams met at the Britannia Stadium, Mark Hughes’ QPR lost narrowly to Stoke City.

Hughes, now in charge of the Potters, are well clear of the drop zone having climbed to 10th spot and are odds-on 8/13 favourites after losing just once in five league outings.

QPR’s atrocious away form this term has seen them drop to second from bottom and are 8/5 to lose to nil. However, star man Charlie Austin has been in sensational form for the Loftus Road outfit, striking 13 league goals, and is 15/8 to net again anytime.