Steve Bruce's Black Cats are enjoying life in the top-flight this season with top scorer Darren Bent, on eight goals, aiding their progress as they are perched in eighth place.
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Partnering Kenwyne Jones up front, the England World Cup prospect is looking the business since his £16.5million club record move from Tottenham Hotspur in the summer.
With only a defeat at home to Chelsea this season, they have picked up maximum points in their other four games at the Stadium of Light and West Ham may not be relishing their long trip to the north east.
Zola will have been delighted with the spirit his men showed last week as they overturned a two goal deficit to draw 2-2 against free-scoring Arsenal at Upton Park.
Carlton Cole was amongst the goals in that draw and the England international will need to use his strength and guile to shoot the high-flying hosts down.
Zola is still without a quartet of first team players with Kieron Dyer (hamstring), Danny Gabbidon (calf), Dean Ashton (ankle) and Luis Boa Morte (knee) all missing for the Londoners.
John Mensah could struggle to be in the reckoning this weekend as he is still suffering from a calf strain. Lee Cattermole will be out for some time after injuring knee ligaments in the infamous beach ball win against Liverpool on October 17.
The Hammers travelled to face Sunderland on November 20 last year and Valon Behrami's goal was enough to secure all three points for the visitors.
His goal brought the Hammers out of an eight game run without a win. His strike took a deflection of Kenwyne Jones before finding a way past Marton Fulop and into the net.