Sunderland will frantically search for a ray of hope that could kick-start their Premier League campaign this season, after failing to win a single match till now in the opening 8 games. West Ham United, on the other hand, are just starting to find some rhythm after a dismal start to the league and will look to continue their current form when they host Sunderland in their new stadium on Saturday.
West Ham are currently 15th with 7 points from eight games. Their work might further be made easier considering Sunderland’s long injury list. However, Sunderland could pose a new threat to the Croat even without their 9 first team players injured, as the reserves have surely gotten enough match experience by now and have a certain hunger that, dare I say it, their first team wasn’t showing.
A much-needed win away at Selhurst Park for the Hammers last week relieved huge pressure from Slaven Bilic’s shoulders. West Ham are undefeated in their last six matches against Sunderland too.
3 key battles when West Ham faces Sunderland
Dmitri Payet vs Javier Manquillo
After a slow start to the season, the Frenchman has finally found some form now showing glimpses of the previous season, where he was absolutely unstoppable. He had carried his form to the Euros too. In their last match, where West Ham edged past Crystal Palace by a narrow margin, Slaven Bilic had to option but to substitute him following Cresswell’s sent off in order to protect the lead.
Hence, when Payet comes on this time, he would be more the focused to prove his critics wrong. He will be up against Javier Manquillo, who has started 6 matches for Sunderland and has the confidence of the manager. His performance will be crucial in Saturday’s match as Payet likes to rip apart the defence from that flank. If Manquillo is successful in keeping Payet calm, Sunderland might get a positive result.
Mark Noble vs Wahbi Khazri
Mark Noble was a quintessential player for the Hammers last season and he slowly getting his form back. In the last match against Crystal palace, he managed 40 successful passes out of the 51 attempted. He along with Pedro Obiang has recovered the balls 19 times for West Ham.
He will be up against Wahbi Khazri. The Tunisian has failed to provide any spark this season as such. His passing percentage from the central attacking position remains a good 72%, however, he has shown little attempt in taking ons and aerial duels. Noble should expect an easy competition but Khazri has enough potential to turn the game of his team. The Mackems will hope the Khazri of last season turns up.
Jermain Defoe vs Ogbonna and Kouyaté
No matter how poor your team plays at the moment, you can never rule out Jermain Defoe. He seems to have re-founded himself at his old age. He has managed to score 4 goals in his 8 appearances this season. With an average of 3 shots per game, the Englishman can change the game fast.
With Ogbonna and Kouyate successfully pulling off 4 and 3 interceptions respectively in their last match, the defence is finally falling into places for Bilic and he would expect a disciplined performance when they are against Defoe.