Black Cats clawing for crucial win at West Ham as Advocaat makes bow
Premier League relegation strugglers Sunderland will travel to Upton Park hoping to secure a vital three points against West Ham United, following a woeful defeat to Aston Villa, which ultimately led to Gus Poyet’s sacking.
Experienced Dutch boss Dick Advocaat has been chosen to take over at the Stadium of Light, but he faces a daunting task of steering the Black Cats away from danger, with Sunderland 11/8 chances with Coral to be relegated this term.
The visitors, 10/3 to win, were comprehensively demolished 4-0 by Tim Sherwood’s Villans last time out, causing Wearside fans to leave the game prematurely en masse and Poyet to lose his job.
However, Sam Allardyce’s Hammers, odds-on 5/6 favourites, are on a torrid run of domestic form themselves, having gone seven league games without a single win and dropping to 10th spot, despite having spent a substantial amount of time in a Champions League position this campaign.
Surprisingly, the hosts’ recent form is worse than that of Sunderland, with the Black Cats on a run of six league games without a victory. Advocaat will need to instil some belief into his inherited squad, with the Wearside outfit also without a win on their travels in six top-flight fixtures.
Despite threatening to steal a European place early in the current campaign, West Ham have now stumbled to mid-table obscurity, following speculation that Allardyce is set to depart the club this summer.
Adrian could retain his place between the Hammers sticks after struggling with a recent finger injury, while Winston Reid and Carlton Cole are both doubts for the home side. Enner Valencia is to remain sidelined for another couple of weeks, with Andy Carroll and James Tomkins not expected to play again this term.
Adam Johnson has returned to training for Sunderland and could feature, with Emanuele Giaccherini expected to miss out until May. However, Will Buckley could be fit again to play a part against the East London outfit.
West Ham have been hampered by injuries to their forwards, having only struck four times in their previous seven league games, and are without a win in that period. Stewart Downing was on target in last year’s 1-1 draw on Wearside and is 10/1 to open proceedings this time out.
Sunderland have won the joint least amount of matches in the top-flight this season, with only Leicester City losing as many games. The visitors will hope Johnson’s return will provide a boost, and he is 7/2 to strike anytime, having netted in this fixture in two consecutive seasons.
In a game which will be played with a lack of confidence for both sides, Advocaat will hope he can kick-start a Black Cats revival, as they aim to claw their way towards Premier League safety. Sunderland are 8/1 to secure victory and both teams to score.