Sunderland’s game against West Brom might not have the high profile of the last one against Newcastle, but we all know it’s every bit as important.
Of the five home games left, this one is the most winnable and as Sam Allardyce has said himself, Sunderland are now at a stage where matches are simply ‘must win’. This has to be one of them.
West Brom didn’t do us any favours in the last Premier League games when they lost at home to Norwich, and I still feel aggrieved about our defeat at the Hawthorns in Big Sam’s first game when Saido Berahino scored a controversial winner after what I’m convinced was a foul on Costel Pantilimon.
Even if they don’t get another point this season, West Brom should be safe from relegation with 39 points already on the board, and what we’d give to be in their position with eight games left.
The Baggies are a massive 13 points ahead of Sunderland in the table, but is there really that much difference between the two teams?
They’ve certainly been more clinical in getting wins when needed and I doubt they’ve thrown away or wasted as many points as we have, so they’ve been more professional as well.
But man-for-man, I don’t think their squad or starting XI is any better than Sunderland’s.
Craig Gardner and Stephane Sessegnon started the Norwich game with James McClean coming on from the bench, and these are players that Sunderland fans weren’t too disappointed to leave the Stadium of Light, yet they’ve played their part in West Brom’s comfortable mid-table position.
Manager Tony Pulis should take a lot of credit as he’s got the maximum out of his squad and his record of never being relegated from the Premier League is safe for another year.
Sunderland’s last game against Newcastle was all about handling the occasion, which by and large they did, but there’ll be a different sort of pressure against West Brom; just as intense, brought on by our precarious position.
Saturday is a match where Sunderland can’t afford to drop points, but West Brom won’t roll over and with the pressure on, it’s sure to be nothing less than another nervy, nail-biting 90 minutes.