Refreshed Sunderland well-placed to continue revival
The FA Cup can do funny things to a club, depending how long you are in it for, but it’s up to each individual to make the most of their situation and Sam Allardyce has seen more situations than most.
The Sunderland manager took his relegation-embattled side away to Dubai last week, with no cup action ensuring his team had a two-week break between Premier League games to recharge the batteries.
Victory over Manchester United and a draw at Anfield ensured the Wearsiders jetted off in high spirits too, and having picked up almost as many points in their last seven games as they did in their opening 20, Sunderland are seemingly conjuring another escape plan.
As Big Ben struck midnight and 2015 became 2016, Sunderland were a near-enough slam dunk 1/11 for relegation, but three wins and two draws in the new year has seen those odds pushed out to 2/5.
A tally of 23 points thus far still has the north-easterners with a lot of work to do, and with an expected Premier League survival total of around 36 points this season, in reality they need another three or four wins and a draw or two from their remaining 11 fixtures.
First up is a trip to Big Sam’s former home Upton Park, where Sunderland are 10/3 for victory in Saturday’s lunch-time kick-off.
West Ham are 4/5 favourites, but though they received another dose of admiration from all who watched their 5-1 thumping of Blackburn last weekend, their Premier League form ought to give Sunderland hope.
The Hammers have won just one of their last five league contests, in a run which has seen them beaten by Sunderland’s rivals Newcastle and held to a draw by relegation colleagues Norwich.
Look a little further back and Slaven Bilic’s men have prevailed in just four of their last 16 league fixtures, while Sunderland have won five times in that spell.
The Hammers have also played two extra matches in February alone, while Sunderland have had a chance to kick-back and relax in the middle east.
Some may point to West Ham being unbeaten at the Boleyn Ground in the league across their last 10 games, but with five of those ending all-square, Sunderland will be confident of taking at least a point at this stage of the campaign.
On paper one would fancy Dimitri Payet and co to run away with this clash, but look a little deeper and there’s every chance Sunderland may spoil the Hammers’ party this weekend.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.