Sunderland-West Ham United Preview

TOM BENNETT (STATS European Football Writer)
The Associated Press

Two teams struggling for results meet at Upton Park on Saturday when West Ham United host Sunderland Athletic.

Sam Allardyce's West Ham (3-4-8) have just one win in their last eight league games and a paltry seven points from their seven home games since the start of the season - better than only the Black Cats. The West Ham manager knows anything other than a win against the Premier League's bottom club would crank up the pressure on him and leave the club in a difficult position going into the busiest three weeks of the season.

"The big disappointment last week was obviously the Crystal Palace result (a 1-0 defeat), after such a big result against Fulham (a 3-0 win), so Sunderland is another massive game for us, another massive three points that we need to make sure we stay in touch with the people above us," said Allardyce. "That makes it a critical game for both teams.

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"Both teams need to win, that's what you need to do and I presume that listening to Gus' (Poyet) quotes that's their objective. They've got to start winning somewhere along the line, as have we, we need to start winning more games."

Sunderland (2-2-11) are bottom of the table by five points and, despite two wins in Gus Poyet's first three games in charge, have struggled to get enough positive results even after his arrival in late October. The football has improved under Poyet, with the Black Cats very unfortunate not to get something from last week's 4-3 and 2-1 defeats to Chelsea and Tottenham, but the manager knows his team could really do with a win against Saturday's physically demanding hosts.

"We know what we are coming up against and how difficult it will be," said Poyet when asked about West Ham. "We need to stand up and do the right things all the time, be very strong as a group as well as being brave on the ball and making things difficult for them. Then, you always have a chance to win.

"We need to start winning games and we've got another opportunity on Saturday."

West Ham have injury doubts over James Collins (illness), Guy Demel (illness), James Tomkins (hamstring), Winston Reid (ankle), Mladen Petric (calf) and Ricardo vaz Te (shoulder), while Stewart Downing (calf) and Andy Carroll (ankle) remain out. Sunderland are without Carlos Cuellar (hip) and Kieren Westwood (shoulder).

Sunderland took four points off the Hammers last season, drawing 1-1 at Upton Park and winning 3-0 in the north-east. The 1-1 draw saw Kevin Nolan snatch a deserved equaliser for West Ham in the 93rd minute after his team had outshot the visitors 22-4 and conceded to the Black Cat's only effort on target.

West Ham haven't managed a win against Sunderland in the last four meetings, losing three and scoring just one goal. Prior to the recent run, West Ham had dominated the rivalry, winning eight of 11 meetings and losing just one.

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