Another Saturday, another relegation battle.
And, unfortunately for Sunderland, the Premier League’s bottom side are encountering a fellow struggler who is showing signs of new life.
Last week, Sunderland visited Stoke City who had begun to pick up their form, and duly lost 2-0.
Tomorrow, David Moyes takes his side to West Ham who, finally, are starting to turn things around it seems.
The Hammers lifted themselves out of the bottom three with a 1-0 win at Crystal Palace and the scowls in the East End have, for now, been replaced by smiles.
Here are three key areas Sunderland must look to utilise tomorrow at the London Stadium.
Stink the place out:
This reporter could not put it any better than Jermain Defoe did this week.
It may not be pretty, the top scorer said, but why shouldn’t the Black Cats take a leaf out of the Jose Mourinho book?
The ‘Special One’ put nine players on the edge of his box as Man United drew 0-0 at Liverpool.
If that was good enough for Jose, then why not us, argued JD? He is spot on.
This is a match which Sunderland can’t afford to lose – if they can nick it then that would be dream time, but tomorrow is an occasion they must simply must make sure the Hammers don’t score.
If it means a red & white wall around the edge of their own box and mind-numbing boredom, then so be it!
No early gifts:
Following on seamlessly from the ‘stink the place out’ policy, Sunderland can’t afford a repeat of last week’s blunders.
Sunderland visited a Stoke side who had not won at home – or anywhere – and had not scored a goal in the first half all season.
So what did they do? Gift the Potters an eighth-minute lead and aided them greatly with the crucial second in first-half stoppage time.
West Ham, buoyed by their victory at Palace and their desperation to lift the London Stadium fans who have been distinctly unhappy at the fare offered at their new home, are going to come flying out of the traps tomorrow.
Sunderland must stand firm and frustrate and get the 50-odd thousand Hammers in the arena on their team’s backs.
West Ham have been woeful at the London Arena, blighted by some dreadful defending, and the Black Cats can’t offer them an easy start. If they do, it could become a long afternoon.
Expose void left by Aaron Cresswell’s absence:
Left-back has been one of the problem areas for the Hammers this season but Cresswell’s return last week after three months out with a knee ligament injury seemed to make a huge difference.
He showed what a key player he is by crossing for Manuel Lanzini’s winner, But he was sent off for two bookings and will be missing tomorrow.
Boss Slaven Bilic used him as a left wing-back at Selhurst Park after adopting a 3-5-2 formation. Hopefully, the absence of the excellent Cresswell can be exploited by the craft of Wahbi Khazri or the energy of Duncan Watmore, or both.