The Official Website takes an in-depth look at how Sunderland could line up on Saturday, while also focusing on Mo Diame's role in the West Ham United midfield.
West Ham United
Ahead of the welcome of Sunderland, WhoScored.com have been studying the stats and they believe the recent poor form of the Black Cats can help West Ham United secure all three points on Saturday.
The Hammers have won four of the last six meetings between the two teams in the Premier League at the Boleyn Ground. The most recent victory came in April 2010 when Brazilian striker Ilan scored the only goal.
Gus Poyet's side have only won two points from a possible 21 away from home this season, the worst record of any team in the Premier League, and the have failed to win any of their last four league games. Sunderland's poor form on the road this term, coupled with West Ham's recent dominance in this fixture, should be enough to see them secure all three points. Sunderland have conceded 30 goals, the most of any side in the Premier League this season, and West Ham will be looking to add to this total at the weekend.
Key to West Ham's ability to secure all three points will be Mo Diame. Should he start, Diame will provide the drive from deep. The 26-year-old has suitably impressed for the Hammers this term, earning an average WhoScored.com rating of 7.00.
This penetrative threat from midfield could be advantageous to Sam Allardyce's side against a Sunderland outfit that is winning possession in the midfield an average of 16.9 times per league game; only Fulham (16.4) and Norwich (16.1) are performing worse in that respect. With a statistically calculated WhoScored.com strength of Diame's 'dribbling', this facet of his game will provide an offensive outlet for West Ham against the Sunderland midfield.
Utilising his power with the ball, the Senegalese is currently averaging 2.2 successful dribbles per game, the most of any West Ham player. Supporters will be hopeful that Diame can harness this ability to carry possession with success against the Premier League's bottom side.
Even when Sunderland are in possession, Diame's ability to cover ground and hinder the attacking impact of the opposition will benefit the hosts. This athleticism will aid in denying the Black Cats from testing the West Ham goal, accentuated in his WhoScored.com strength of 'tackling'.
Comfortable in either offensive or defensive situations, Diame will be essential in claiming maximum points at the expense of Sunderland as West Ham look to make it back to back wins at the Boleyn Ground. A repeat of the 3-0 win against Fulham last time out at home would be timely before the busy Christmas schedule, and it's likely that Diame will play a key role in a game that West Ham will be looking to win.
*WhoScored.com is a website and one of the fastest growing in the sports industry, specialising in the in-depth analysis of detailed football data. Follow @WhoScored on Twitter.
Possible starting XI
Bardsley O'Shea Brown Dossena
Larsson Giaccherini Gardner Johnson
Gus Poyet is clearly still trying to work out his strongest starting XI, having chopped and changed his Sunderland team regularly in his opening nine games in charge.
Following a midweek 4-3 home defeat by Chelsea, Poyet made no fewer than four changes of personnel and altered his formation for last Saturday's visit of Tottenham Hotspur, which ended in a 2-1 reverse.
The 4-1-4-1 system used against Chelsea was replaced by a 4-1-3-2 shape against Spurs, with two central strikers deployed in Jozy Altidore and Steven Fletcher. It is possible that Poyet may revert to a more defensive system with just one forward this afternoon, but the Uruguayan may stick with a more attacking line-up if he believes this is a game that Sunderland simply have to win.
If Sunderland do stick with two up-front, they may expose a defence that has conceded a Barclays Premier League-high 30 goals already this term - an average of two per game. Whichever formation they employ, Sunderland are likely to play with width, with wingers Sebastian Larsson and Adam Johnson central to their attacking ambitions.
At the back, Vito Mannone is a strong goalkeeper who distributes the ball well, both short and long.
In front of him, centre-back pairing John O'Shea and Wes Brown are vastly experienced. Right-sided O'Shea is a physical presence in both penalty areas who uses his positional sense to snuff out the danger. Brown is a mobile and smooth mover over the ground and uses the ball intelligently. As a defender, the 34-year-old is consistently well-positioned and times his tackles well.
At full-back, Phil Bardsley switched from the right against Chelsea to left-back against Spurs. He is a hard-working, powerful defender who also gets forward well, scoring twice already this season. Should Bardsley stay at left-back, Czech Republic international Ondrej Celustka will start at right-back. A mobile, compact defender, Celustka chalked up an assist in Saturday's home defeat by Spurs. If Poyet opts to revert to the same back four as started against Chelsea, then Italian Andrea Dossena could return at left-back.
In front of the back four, South Korean Ki Sung-Yueng is a tall defensive midfielder who uses the ball well when in possession, completing a team-high 89.1 per cent of his passes. He should start, but could be replaced by the more combative Lee Cattermole.
The three attacking midfielders used against Spurs were Larsson, Jack Colback and Johnson, although Poyet could opt to recall Craig Gardner or Italians Emanuele Giaccherini or Fabio Borini. Sweden international Larsson is quick and lethal from long-range, as West Ham found during the 3-0 defeat at the Stadium of Light in January. On the left flank, Johnson is what you might call an old-fashioned winger, capable of crossing and shooting with either foot, as he did by scoring with his right against Spurs on Saturday.
In the centre, Colback started last weekend. The homegrown midfielder is small in stature, but can make his mark by creating chances with his left foot, having recorded a team-high two assists this term. Giaccherini is also small, but buzzes around the pitch and is always involved in the game. Borini is a striker by trade who can also play wide and put in a lively performance as a substitute against Tottenham. Gardner is a versatile all-round player who can score goals from long range.
Up front, Altidore is a powerful player who can hold the ball up for others or turn and run at defenders before shooting powerfully with his right foot. Fletcher is a goalscorer. The left-sided Scot is good in the air, times his runs well and is clinical when presented with an opening on the ground.