Preview: Sunderland v West Ham

by Stuart Vose

We look ahead to a Monday night clash on Wearside.

The Barclays Premier League run-in continues as Sunderland welcome West Ham to the Stadium of Light on Monday evening (KO 8pm).

Having hovered around the lower reaches for much of the campaign, the Hammers have pulled away from the bottom of late and sit in a reasonably comfortable mid-table position following last Wednesday's 2-1 win over Hull City at the Boleyn Ground.

Sunderland will be looking to cut the gap between the sides to six points with a fourth home league win of the season.

The Black Cats are now four points behind West Bromwich Albion, who occupy the final place above the relegation zone.

Gus Poyet’s side have suffered just two home defeats in all competitions in 2014 – a span of nine games.

But the Uruguayan is mindful of the need for home points, with his side set to play five of their remaining nine league games at the Stadium of Light.

Sunderland came close to victory in the corresponding fixture earlier in the season, creating a number of chances without being able to make the vital breakthrough in a 0-0 draw.

Poyet was pleased with his side’s performance in the last half-hour against Liverpool last week as they almost rubbed out a 2-0 deficit to take a point.

Subs Adam Johnson and Ki Sung-Yueng made a real impact after entering the fray on the hour, with the pair combining as the South Korean halved the deficit 14 minutes from time.

Although the Black Cats couldn’t force a leveller, Poyet took plenty of positives and says more of the same will be required on Monday evening.

“We need to take what we have done here into the next game; that’s what’s most important,” Poyet told SAFSee after the game at Anfield.

“We can’t just keep playing like this every now and again and then not perform at home.

“A result against West Ham now would be perfect for me because we have shown the type of attitude to go out and score goals and try and win the game, and I want to see this again.”

Sunderland and West Ham will meet for the 86th time on Monday – a home victory would take the all-time wins tally to 32 apiece, with 22 draws.

The Black Cats ran out 3-0 winners in this fixture last season, with Seb Larsson, Adam Johnson and James McClean all finding the target.

Overall, Sunderland are five games unbeaten against the Hammers.

Having made five changes ahead of the Liverpool game, Poyet will be faced with some selection decisions with both Johnson and Ki impressing off the bench at Anfield.

Sunderland's head coach will be boosted by the return of two senior players in Fabio Borini and Marcos Alonso.

Borini was ineligible against his parent club in midweek, while Alonso has completed a one-match ban.

Meanwhile, defender Phil Bardsley will become the club's all-time record Premier League appearance-maker if he features on Monday, having tied Michael Gray with 170 Premier League games played.

Tickets for Monday’s encounter are still available in person at the Stadium of Light ticket office, over the phone on 0871 911 1973 or via the online box office.