West Ham United Preview (H) - January 12
SUNDERLAND return to Premier League action today (Saturday) as they host Sam Allardyce's West Ham United at the Stadium of Light.
Such has been the ease with which the Hammers have taken to top-flight life that you could be forgiven for forgetting that the East Londoners spent last season in the N.Power Championship, returning via the Play-Off's after beating Blackpool.
Currently 11th in the league standings, Allardyce's side are a full eight points above the drop zone and earlier in the season could be found floating around seventh or eighth.
The hugely-experienced Allardyce has gone about his business quietly, putting together the usual hard-working, highly-effective side with a number of players who have previously worked under him.
Allardyce has already been busy in the transfer market, bringing for youth team graduate Joe Cole back to the club on a free transfer.
Freed by Liverpool in order to complete the deal, Cole re-signed for his first club, for whom he made his debut in 1998 under Harry Redknapp.
The playmaker made 126 appearances for the Irons during his first spell at the Boleyn Ground before joining Chelsea in 2003 following West Ham's relegation.
Cole spent seven years at Stamford Bridge, winning three Premier League titles, three F.A Cups and two League Cups whilst making 184 appearances for the West Londoners.
A free transfer to Liverpool never worked out, and having made just 26 appearances for the Merseysiders, Cole spent last term on-loan at Lille before returning to Anfield.
On his day, one of the most creative English midfielders in the country, Allardyce will look to unlock Cole's brilliance once more.
West Ham also bolstered their striking options with the loan addition of Marouane Chamakh.
The 29 year-old Arsenal forward has joined the Irons on-loan for the rest of the season after failing to hit it off at the Emirates Stadium during his two-and-a-half year stay.
An archetypal targetman, Chamakh moved to the Premier League in 2010 after netting 76 goals in 301 league and cup appearances for Bordeaux.
Despite a bright start with Arsene Wenger's side, Chamakh made just 67 league and cup appearances for the Gunners, scoring 14 goals.
Whilst goalscoring might not Chamakh's strongest point, he will certainly fit into Allardyce's 'brand' of football and offer another line-leading option to Andy Carroll.
The Hammers will be without Andy Carroll (knee), Mo Diame (hamstring) and Joey O'Brien (hamstring).
Martin O'Neill could bring in new signing Alfred N'Diaye for his debut, whilst Wes Browm (knee), Lee Cattermole (knee), John O'Shea (hamstring) are all missing.
Carlos Cuellar, Danny Rose and Stephane Sessegnon are all doubts.
Sunderland: Mignolet; Gardner, Bramble, Kilgallon, Rose; Johnson, Larsson, N'Diaye, McClean; Sessegnon; Fletcher.
West Ham United: Jaaskelainen; O'Brien, Reid, Tomkins, Demel; Jarvis, Collison, Noble, Taylor; Cole & Vaz Te.
Referee: Mr N Swarbrick.