West Ham United host struggling Sunderland at the Boleyn Ground on Saturday as they bid to bring to an end a seven-game winless run in the Barclays Premier League.
Since seeing off Hull City at the Boleyn Ground on 18 January, Big Sam’s men have picked up just three points from draws against Manchester United, Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur, slipping to tenth in the table in the process.
However, they now only have to face one top-seven side in their final nine games so will be eyeing this as an opportunity to finish the season strongly.
Sunderland, meanwhile, travel to east London under Dick Advocaat’s management for the first time. The Black Cats dispensed of previous boss Gus Poyet’s services on Monday after a 4-0 defeat at home to Aston Villa last weekend left them just a point above the drop zone.
The teams played out a 1-1 draw at the Stadium of Light in December and West Ham will be hoping to take a step back towards the top eight of the division with victory on Saturday.
Who are they?
Founded in 1879 as Sunderland and District Teachers AFC, the club joined the Football League for the 1890/91 season. They won the league title the following season and added five more championships to their trophy cabinet by 1936.
Top tier success has been harder to come by in the modern era, with the 1973 FA Cup their last major honour.
The current campaign is their eighth consecutive Premier League season, after they won the Football League Championship title in 2006/07.
West Ham United
The Hammers welcome back Carlton Cole to their squad after his recovery from a hamstring injury sustained at Tottenham Hotspur in February.
Carl Jenkinson is also back after sitting out against his parent club Arsenal at Emirates Stadium last weekend, but Winston Reid might miss out once again with his hamstring problem.
James Tomkins (shoulder), Enner Valencia (foot) and Andy Carroll (knee) remain sidelined.
Adam Johnson returned to training with the Black Cats this week after his suspension by the club was lifted.
Lee Cattermole completes a two-game ban, while new boss Advocaat has suggested that young striker Duncan Watmore could be involved, while John O’Shea and Sebastian Larsson hope to be involved despite missing training this week.
Saturday’s match referee is Lee Mason. Mason started refereeing in 1988 and in 1992 he was added to the North West Counties Football League assistant referees' list, and progressed to full referee for that competition four years later. He was included on the Football League list of assistant referees in 1998, and was then added to the Premier League list in 2000.
In 2002, he was promoted to referee for the Football League and in 2003 became a 'Development Group' referee, before finally reaching the Premier League list of Select Group referees in 2006.
His first ever match in the top tier was on 4 February 2006, when Middlesbrough lost 4-0 at home to Aston Villa. Mason was chosen to control the League One Play-Off final between Barnsley and Swansea on 27 May 2006, and this term he has dished out 84 yellow cards and five reds in 25 games.
One to Watch
West Ham United
James Collins will continue to hold the fort in defence as Big Sam’s injury worries in his position continue.
The 31-year-old centre back was partnered by Cheikhou Kouyate at Arsenal last week and the pair defended well to keep the Hammers in the hunt until the 81st minute.
Collins, who will report for international duty with Wales after the game, has made 21 appearances this season, with one goal – at Everton in the FA Cup.
Ex-Hammers striker Jermain Defoe was a January arrival at the Stadium of Light, leaving Major League Soccer side Toronto FC behind after a six-month stint in Canada.
Having notched twice since his arrival in the north-east, the Black Cats will be hoping for more goals from the England striker as they try to climb away from the bottom three.
The east Londoner started his career with the Hammers, scoring 29 league goals in 93 games.
Tickets for Saturday’s game have all SOLD OUT. However, tickets may become available online as Season Ticket holders relist on Ticket Trader.
There are no planned closures on the London Underground lines serving Upton Park station. Click here to plan your journey with Transport for London.
On the Greater Anglia network, buses replace mainline services between Ipswich and Billericay, where passengers can connect with Southend to London services. Click here for the latest from Greater Anglia.
There are no planned service alterations on the c2c network.
A cloudy day with sunny intervals is expected on Saturday, with temperatures of 8C (46F) at kick-off.
Last home meeting
West Ham United 0-0 Sunderland
Barclays Premier League
Saturday 14 December 2014
West Ham United: Jaaskelainen, Demel (O’Brien 58), Collins, Tomkins, McCartney, Morrison, Noble, Diame, Jarvis (Collison 56), Maiga, J.Cole (C.Cole 75)
Subs: Adrian, Rat, Taylor, Diarra
Sunderland: Mannone, Bardsley (Dossena 82), Brown, O’Shea, Celutska, Ki, Larsson, Cattermole, Giaccherini, Altidore (Fletcher 72), Borini (Johnson 73)
Subs: Pickford, Roberge, Cabral, Gardner