Sam Allardyce: Jermain Defoe gives Sunderland chance of staying up
Sam Allardyce believes Jermain Defoe can again inspire Sunderland to safety.
The Crystal Palace manager, who oversaw Sunderland's unlikely escape from relegation last season, faces his former team on Saturday at Selhurst Park, and for the first time since he left to accept the England job.
His swift return to club management with Palace means he again finds himself in a relegation battle, this time alongside Sunderland.
Tuesday's victory at Bournemouth - their first in the Premier League since Allardyce's appointment - has also given them renewed confidence for Saturday's fixture, in which they hope to secure three further points.
Allardyce, however, remains wary of the threat posed by Defoe.
The striker's goals were the difference between relegation and survival for Sunderland last season, and though his successor David Moyes' task looks even more difficult than his own 12 months ago, Allardyce is convinced the striker's ability gives them a real chance.
"We have all got enough time, David has got enough time, to get us out of trouble," said Allardyce. "But Saturday, the distance we put between us and them will be big if we win. It is a big difference we are going to try and achieve.
"It was never going to be easy (for Sunderland to survive again). I hadn't signed a player when I had left and that was far too long. And it wasn't because I was going to England. It was because we couldn't find the right player for the right money we had.
"So I hadn't strengthened the squad by the time David took over and he didn't have a lot of time to do that. He did in the end and all those players have to bed in so late. That is a disruption.
"(But) if you have got Jermain Defoe, you have always got a chance, as it was with me last year. I would say he is on a par with Nicolas Anelka (as the best striker I have worked with), which is a big statement. I would imagine that Jermain at 26, as Nicolas was when I got him, was probably as good.
"I am trying to follow the exact same programme now. We have got Christian (Benteke) with 11 (goals). Could he get 15, 16, 17? He could be our saviour. Different type, but he is a goalscorer."
Only Patrick van Aanholt, of Palace's four January recruits, is expected to start against Sunderland on Saturday, meaning he will make his home debut against the team he had just left.
Mamadou Sakho will likely be among the substitutes because of a lack of match fitness, Jeffrey Schlupp will miss out with a hamstring injury, and Luka Milivojevic is not yet available because he awaits a visa.
Sunderland boss Moyes has ordered his players to make the most of Defoe's continued presence to help him fire the club out of relegation trouble.
West Ham launched a tentative B#6million bid to lure the striker away from the Stadium of Light during last month's transfer window, but were swiftly rebuffed with the Black Cats knowing he represents their best chance of staving off the drop for a fifth successive season.
However, the last of Defoe's 12 goals to date this term came in a 3-1 home defeat by Stoke on January 14, and Moyes admits the former England international will need more chances if he is to continue to do what he does best.
The Scot said: "There was a bit of noise at the start of the window, but everybody knew that he was vital to us. But we have got to get him opportunities to score, and that's probably been something in recent weeks we have not done.
"We have not had enough opportunities. We had one or two in midweek that didn't fall to Jermain (in the 0-0 draw with Tottenham). We made a couple of chances in the first half, but we need to try to get a situation where we are creating more chances.
"We miss Victor (Anichebe) for that as well because Victor brings other parts to the game and gets us a bit higher up the pitch at different times.
"But we have to keep getting Jermain those opportunities to score."
The knee injury Anichebe suffered during the 2-0 defeat at West Brom on January 21 is set to rule him out until April, and his misfortune prompted a late and ultimately unsuccessful transfer window flurry to sign a replacement with Sunderland seeing three bids for Leicester's Leonardo Ulloa rejected.
New signings Bryan Oviedo and Darron Gibson could be involved for the first time at Palace, where Moyes will go head to head with Allardyce.
Moyes said: "He's been around the block, he knows exactly what's required. He has his own style, Sam, he's his own man and he's very experienced."