West Ham United v Sunderland preview: Allardyce returns to Upton Park
Last Updated: 27/02/16 11:56am
Sam Allardyce returns to West Ham for the first time since leaving the club at the end of last season when Sunderland are the visitors to Upton Park.
Allardyce took charge of West Ham in June 2011, leading the Hammers back to the Premier League at the first time of asking before helping them secure three mid-table finishes in the top-flight.
The Sunderland boss wasn't a popular figure with the West Ham fans, who were critical of his style, but Allardyce's successor Slaven Bilic has praised the job he did at Upton Park.
"Sam did great for West Ham," he said. "He has managed for 20 years very successfully, and he took West Ham at a moment when we were in the Championship.
"He got us up straight away and stabilised us in the Premier League, so he did a great job here."
Now Allardyce's focus is helping Sunderland avoid the drop and despite his side's 2-1 win at home to Manchester United last time out, he thinks the club still need five wins to avoid the drop.
However, their away form has been a cause for concern following a run which has seen them win just two of their last 15 matches away from the Stadium of Light.
Andy Carroll returns to the West Ham squad following a groin injury.
Cheikhou Kouyate is also available after his red card in the FA Cup win against Blackburn last weekend was overturned, as is Sam Byram who was cup-tied at Ewood Park.
Winston Reid (hamstring) and Diafra Sakho (thigh) are back in training, but will not be risked, while Joey O'Brien (hamstring), James Tomkins (calf) and Enner Valencia (ankle) are still out injured.
For the visitors, defenders Younes Kaboul (ankle) and Billy Jones (hip), plus midfielders Jan Kirchhoff (hamstring) and Sebastian Larsson (knee) are all fit and back in contention.
Midfielder Jeremain Lens has undergone surgery to repair a hernia and is expected to be available for next weekend's trip to Southampton.
However, striker Duncan Watmore is likely to be sidelined for several weeks by ankle ligament damage.
The Hammers have won seven and lost just one of the last 10 Premier League home games against the Black Cats.
Allardyce had a 31 per cent win rate at West Ham compared to new boss Bilic, who has won 38 per cent of his games in charge. Bilic has the best win percentage of any West Ham manager in the Premier League era (minimum four games).
If the Hammers win this match, it will be their highest ever haul of points after 27 Premier League games beating the 42 they had earned in 2005-06.
West Ham United have conceded the highest proportion of goals in the first half of matches this season (61 per cent).
Dimitri Payet has scored or assisted 12 Premier League goals this season (seven goals, five assists); twice as many as any other West Ham player.
Sunderland have allowed their opponents 158 shots on target against them this season, more than any other team in the top flight.
West Ham are unbeaten in their last 10 Premier League games at the Boleyn Ground (W5 D5).
It will be a tough return to Upton Park for Sam Allardyce. Sunderland have dug in in recent weeks and got some very good results but West Ham are a very good side.
Dimitri Payet is in outstanding form and firing on all cylinders for Slaven Bilic's side. I think Sunderland will struggle to cope with him so I'm backing him to score the first goal and West Ham to win 3-1.
PAUL PREDICTS: 3-1 (Sky Bet Odds 14/1)
West Ham are Sky Bet's 5/6 favourites for the victory as Sunderland go up against odds of 100/30 to leave with the points and 5/2 to secure a draw. Sam Allardyce is currently 6/4 to lead the Black Cats to safety, while his former club are 9/2 for a top-six finish and 40/1 to secure Champions League qualification.
Emmanuel Emenike and Enner Valencia head the first goalscorer market at 9/2 apiece followed by Dimitri Payet (11/2), while Jermain Defoe is rated the visitors' main threat at 6/1.
Soccer Saturday pundit Phil Thompson is tipping Payet to fire the Hammers to victory, backing the Frenchman to score first in a 2-0 victory at 30/1 in his Sky Bet scorecast.