West Ham Utd - Sunderland Preview (A) - Sept 22
SUNDERLAND ARE back on their travels this weekend as they head down to east London to face Sam Allardyce`s West Ham United outfit looking for their first victory of the new season.
It has been something of a seamless return to top-flight football for Allardyce and West Ham after just one season away in the Championship. Play-Off glory in May at the expense of Bristol City capped an immediate return to the elite of English football and after a solid start to the new Premier League season it`s like the Hammers have never been away.
Placed eighth after just four games with two wins a draw and a defeat, the Irons will be looking to build as big a gap between themselves and the relegation zone as they can muster, as quickly as possible.
Allardyce has recruited in order to prepare his side for the campaign, bringing in a number of players who conform to the 'Big Sam` stereotype, as well as adding some craft and guile in the likes of Matt Jarvis.
Undoubtedly the biggest addition to the club, in both literal and metaphorical sense, is former Mag, Andy Carroll. The hulking 6`3 goal-getter signed on a season-long loan from Liverpool on August 30, in a move the Reds would later regret.
Imperious on his debut for the Irons, brushing aside a flaccid Fulham defence in a 3-0 win, Carroll has quickly gone some way to restoring a reputation which was severely dented after a goal-shy 20 months at Anfield. Just six league goals in 44 appearances is not value at £35m, but a desperate Kenny Dalglish paid well over the odds for the 23 year-old anyway.
Impressive during the European Championships this summer, Carroll scored his maiden England goal in the 3-2 win over Sweden.
Between the sticks Alllardyce has brought in a man he knows well from his Bolton days in Jussi Jaaskelainen. The vastly-experienced Finnish international was a fan`s favourite at the Reebok under Allardyce but fell out-of-favour under Owen Coyle.
Now re-united with Big Sam, the 37 year-old has been installed at the club`s new number one after Rob Green left the club on a free transfer to sit on the bench at Queens Park Rangers.
Supremely agile and ever-reliable, Jaaskelainen made over 400 league appearances during his 15 years with the Trotters.
Another man who fits the Allardyce ideal is French international Alou Diarra. A vastly-experienced holding midfielder, the 44-cap French international played against England in the 2012 Euro`s.
Diarra, 31, has had spells with Bayern Munich, Liverpool, Lyon, Bordeaux & Marseille during a career which has seen him win silverware with four different clubs as well as a World Cup runners-up medal in 2006.
Signed on a three-year deal for an undisclosed fee, Diarra debuted against Swansea from the bench but has yet to make his first start for the club.
Allardyce has just two injuries to contend with; Midfielder Jack Collison has a knee problem & Carroll was injured on debut against Fulham, but has been reported as overcoming his hamstring trouble a lot sooner than expected so could be in the frame for Sunderland`s visit.
Martin O`Neill is still without experienced defensive pair Phil Bardsley and Wes Brown, whilst David Vaughan is working his way back to fitness.
Carlos Cuellar will miss the trip to the capital because of a hamstring strain whilst Adam Johnson should be fit after narrowly missing the Liverpool clash due to thigh problem. O`Neill has however said that he will not rush the England winger back & should stick with Seb Larsson out wide.
West Ham United: Jaaskelainen; Demel, Reid, Tompkins, O`Brien; Diame; Noble, Taylor; Nolan (c); Vaz Te & Cole.
Sunderland: Mignolet; Gardner, Bramble, O`Shea, Rose; Larsson, Cattermole (c), Colback, McClean; Sessegnon; Fletcher.
Referee: Mr L Mason.