West Ham V Sunderland at Upton Park : Match Preview

22 September 2012 08:36
West Ham V Sunderland - view commentary, squad, and statistics of the game live.

Allardyce wary of O'Neill's Sunderland.

West Ham manager Sam Allardyce is expecting a tricky test against Sunderland as his men look to maintain their impressive start to life back in the Barclays Premier League. The Irons have won two of their opening four league games, with last weekend's goalless draw at Norwich a fourth clean sheet in all competitions. Sunderland, meanwhile, have yet to record a league victory, drawing all three of their matches, with the home fixture against Reading having been called off because of a waterlogged pitch. West Ham may have rolled Fulham over 3-0 in their last outing at the Upton Park, but Allardyce knows the Hammers will have to fight for any positive result again.

"Everybody is buzzing about the free-scoring nature of Arsenal yet Sunderland managed to get a 0-0 draw there on the opening day," said Allardyce. "Then, against Swansea they took the lead twice and knowing [Sunderland manager] Martin O'Neill as I do, he will have felt disappointed not to win the game. "I know what to expect from Sunderland having studied those two games and also from knowing Martin and the way he structures his teams. "We have to make sure we are capable of breaking them down and ensure that when we create opportunities, we take them."

Doing just that, however, will again be down to someone other than England international Andy Carroll, the on-loan Liverpool striker who is recovering from a hamstring problem which saw him limp off in the second half of his debut before the international break. Allardyce expects the rest of his squad to step up to the challenge in front of what is set to be another expectant crowd. "We have delivered two very important home wins and, coupled with the back end of last season, we have won six home games in a row and only conceded one goal," he said. "In the games we have had here, including the Capital One Cup game against Crewe, we have done exceptionally well. "We want to continue that against a very strong Sunderland side who have gone away to Arsenal and Swansea and come away with points. It will be very difficult for us."

Midfielder Matt Jarvis could make his home debut after a substitute appearance in last week's goalless draw at Norwich, but Jack Collison (knee) remains sidelined.

Meanwhile, O'Neill expects a tough test but believes his side is growing in confidence as they bid to win their first Barclays Premier League game of the season. The Black Cats' trip to east London will be their third away fixture in four games, but while they are unbeaten after draws against Arsenal and Swansea on the road and Liverpool last weekend at the Stadium of Light, O'Neill's men are yet to get their first victory on the board.

The Sunderland boss knows Allardyce's West Ham will provide a stern physical test, with his teams renowned for a robust playing style and reliance on long-ball tactics and the set-piece. "They've got off to a very good start and they will be pleased with that," O'Neill said. "They have obviously got points on the board and they mean a great deal to any football club, but it will be tough. Knowing the manager as I do, those difficulties will be for us on Saturday and I think it will be a really difficult game for us. "West Ham got up last season and that's not an easy league to get out of. They did very, very well. "You would always back Sam to have taken the team up and with him at the helm I don't think there will be any danger of the team going back down again. He's proved his worth over the years."

O'Neill approaches the game with winger Adam Johnson struggling to shrug off a thigh problem and defender Carlos Cueller having picked up a hamstring injury, while Craig Gardner looks set to continue his makeshift role in the Sunderland defence in the absence of Phil Bardsley.

Source: PA

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