Sunderland currently sit bottom of the Premier League with only eight points. This places them five points from safety with a considerably worse goal difference then their nearest rivals.
Things are getting very serious for Sunderland now. Such is the gravity of Sunderland's position that their next eight league games between now and the return fixture against Newcastle have taken on the cliched label of being cup finals.
Sunderland fans can take some hope though. Since sacking the temperamental Paolo Di Canio his replacement Gus Poyet has got Sunderland playing as more of a unit. There have been some encouraging performances. Losing by only a single goal against both Tottenham and Chelsea.
Ultimately, though these encouraging performances are meaningless. The cold hard fact is Sunderland need points. So far Gus Poyet's team have only managed two victories this season and even though these victories were against arch-rivals Newcastle and a shock triumph over Manchester City this still only earned them six points.
In truth if Sunderland could have swapped these victories for wins over teams around them like Fulham and Stoke their survivals chances would been greatly improved. As Crystal Palace are proving beating the smaller teams can be more important than beating the big boys.
So Saturday's trip to Upton Park is must win. It is to use another dreaded cliché a relegation six pointer. Lose and Sunderland will be truly adrift. Win against the Hammers and the gap to safety suddenly looks bridgeable.
The good news for Sunderland is that West Ham currently look very beatable. A disastrous transfer policy of buying one very expensive injury prone striker has left them hamstrung upfront. The Hammers have only scored two in six games.
On top of this attacking threats Stuart Downing and Kevin Nolan will miss the game and at the back defenders Collins, Demel, Rat and Tomkins are all fitness doubts.
A early Christmas present is there for the taking and Sunderland cannot afford to turn it down.