The Hammers make the long journey up to The Stadium of Light for a Monday night clash with Sunderland. Although a small minority of boos rang out around Upton Park last week, following what could potentially be a crucial victory against Hull, the West Ham faithful will be hoping to increase the gap between their team and the relegation zone to 11 points.

Sunderland are at the heart of the relegation battle, at the foot of the Barclays Premier League. However, Gus Poyet has several positives to take into this game following a narrow 2-1 defeat at the hands of Liverpool last week, a Liverpool side that is proving very difficult to stop. This defeat included a change in style from the Uruguayan, who opted for a new 3-4-1-2 formation which I would presume will be the same for tonight’s game.

With Sunderland boasting the worst home record in the league, Allardyce and his men must be looking to snatch all 3 points, an achievement which for me personally, I believe would see them to safety, on 37 points. The return of both Winston Reid and Matt Jarvis could prove vital, especially if Reid can tighten up the defensive line like he has done previously on countless occasions.

Many West Ham fans are still yet to see enough of the January new boys, Antonio Nocerino and Pablo Armero are two much talked about prospects, both having played internationally and at a high level. However, the reluctance from Big Sam to give either of these two enough time in the infamous claret and blue shirt has not gone down well with the West Ham fans.

West Ham are not the only side who have a reason to be optimistic, Sunderland welcome the return of Fabio Borini, their stand out player this season. He is available for selection after being ineligible in the tie against his parent club Liverpool. If Sunderland are going to get anything out of tonight’s game then the players need to stand up and be counted. They face a tough run in and its games like tonight when the players need to leave nothing on the pitch.

With neither side showing much quality in recent games, I can’t see this game proving to be a repeat of last Sunday’s ‘El Clásico’ that oozed class and was so beautiful to watch. Instead, I can see a game full of passion and desire from both teams to get the job done and keep their respective teams in the top flight.