West Ham finally appear to be going somewhere. A 1-0 victory over Swansea City last weekend felt like a truly important win, with the club now eight points clear of the relegation zone.
This weekend’s game against Sunderland, then, offers the perfect chance for the Hammers to climb further in the league, and finally put any lingering fears of relegation to bed.
WEST HAM INJURIES
West Ham are currently in the midst of something of an injury crisis but Sam Byram will be fit to take his place at right-back.
Byram left the stadium on crutches following the win over the Swans but sources have insisted that he will return for the encounter with Sunderland.
Michail Antonio, however, faces a three week lay-off after picking up a hamstring injury.
Andy Carroll and Diafra Sakho could both be involved, though it is unlikely that both will start against the Black Cats.
Aaron Cresswell and Winston Reid are both doubtful for the encounter, while Pedro Obiang, Angelo Ogbonna and Gokhan Tore are long-term absentees.
WEST HAM SUSPENSIONS
West Ham do not currently have any players suspended.
POTENTIAL WEST HAM LINE-UP
West Ham finally recorded a Premier League victory last week and are unlikely to make too many changes to the starting line-up when they take on David Moyes’ beleaguered Sunderland.
Antonio is definitely out of the game and he is likely to be replaced in the No.10 role by Robert Snodgrass.
Elsewhere, Sakho could return up front, now that he is fully fit again, though Slaven Bilic may choose to continue with a striker-less formation, which would mean Andre Ayew becoming the most advanced attacker.
SUNDERLAND TEAM NEWS
Sunderland are rooted to the bottom of the Premier League table, having taken a mere 20 points from 31 games.
The Black Cats have not been helped by a number of long-term injury absentees; Bryan Oviedo, Jan Kirchhoff, Duncan Watmore and Paddy McNair are all definitely out of the game.
With a 10-point gap between Sunderland and Hull City, in 17th, it is difficult to foresee the Black Cats managing to stave off their seemingly inevitable relegation much longer.
BEST OPTA MATCH FACTS
Sunderland are winless in their last seven league games against West Ham (D3 L4), with the last two finishing 1-0 to the Hammers.
Jermain Defoe has scored six goals in 15 Premier League games against his former club but he’s yet to score against them in three appearances for Sunderland.
On the day of the game, Sunderland will have spent 224 days in the relegation zone this season. The record for a single season is held by Sheffield Wednesday in 1999-00 (278 days) and if Sunderland remain in the bottom three between now and the end of the season they can only reach 261 days in 2016-17.
TV COVERAGE & KICK-OFF TIME
The game is due to kick off at 15:00 on Saturday, and will not be televised live in the UK. Highlights will be broadcast on Match of the Day at 22:20 on BBC One.