Premier League preview: Sunderland v West Ham
Sunderland host West Ham at the Stadium of Light on Saturday as they look to move further away from the relegation zone.
Martin O'Neill's side sit in 14th place on the Premier League table, four points clear of the bottom three, and go into Saturday's game with the knowledge a win will go a long way in their quest for survival.
Sunderland have not won in three matches, with a 3-0 loss to Liverpool last week followed by a disappointing 2-2 draw with Championship side Bolton Wanderers in the FA Cup on the weekend.
They will be desperate to turn around their disappointing home form which has seen them win just three of their past 14 Premier League games at the Stadium of Light against a West Ham side who have won only two of their previous 15 away games in the league.
The Hammers bounced back from a shock loss to lowly Reading with an impressive 2-1 win over Norwich before enduring a heartbreaking 2-2 draw in the FA Cup against Manchester United on Saturday, with Robin Van Persie scoring in the dying minutes to force a replay.
West Ham are in 11th spot on the table, and victory for the East London side could potentially put them into the top 10 as their first season back in the Premier League since 2010/11 continues to go positively.
The return of Joe Cole to Upton Park against Manchester United was a huge success after his recent transfer from Liverpool.
The 31-year-old turned back the clock with a vintage performance that saw him assist both of James Collins' goals and he will surely be in line to make his first Premier League appearance for his boyhood club since 2003.
Sunderland have also injected freshness into their squad as the January transfer market gets into full swing with the signing of French defensive midfielder Alfred N'Diaye from Bursaspor on Wednesday.
The former France Under-21 international could be in line for selection on Saturday subject to international clearance
His signing will bolster a defence that has conceded five goals in their past two matches and manager O'Neill was elated to have secured his signature.
"He is a powerful young player and can offer us more strength in depth. I'm delighted we have been able to bring him to the club," he said.
Skipper Lee Cattermole is recovering ahead of schedule from a serious knee injury he suffered against QPR in November but is still unlikely to play while former Manchester United pair Wes Brown and John O'Shea are definitely out.
West Ham will still be without striker Andy Carroll and midfielder Mohamed Diame, who are close to making their returns, but may hand a debut to on-loan forward Marouane Chamakh, who joined from Arsenal at the start of the transfer period.