Sunderland predicted XI - West Ham United: Can the Black Cats build on their recent run of form?

Sunderland face a difficult trip to high-flying West Ham, but will be confident of their chances following an improvement in their form.

Sunderland predicted XI - West Ham United: Can the Black Cats build on their recent run of form?
Khazri will be key if Sunderland are to leave the capital with any points (Photo: Getty)

Following a trip to Dubai, Sunderland return to Premier League action against in-form West Ham.

Sam Allardyce will have Sebastian Larsson available for the trip down south, having returned to training following a knee injury.

Sunderland's form had drastically improved before a two week break, and they will be hoping to continue where they left off after beating Manchester United in their previous game.

With the game kicking off at 12:45, it gives the team in red and white a chance to pick up a victory and pile the pressure onto their relegation rivals.

New signings will be key to victory

Sunderland's improvement has largely been down to the impact their January signings have made since arriving on Wearside.

Lamine Kone and Wahbi Khazri were pivotal in the win over Manchester United a fortnight ago, and will need to be at their best again.

Jan Kirchhoff has also proved to be a good signing for the Black Cats, despite a shocking debut against Tottenham Hotspur. The German has been utilised in a defensive midfield role but limped off against in Sunderland's last game.

The former Bayern Munich man is in contention to return from his hamstring injury, but Sunderland have options if he is unavailable. Jack Rodwell replaced Kirchhoff last time out, and Sunderland are also boosted by the return of Larsson.

Settled defence

Allardyce will most likely name the same back four that started against Manchester United, giving Sunderland a solid platform as they look to shut out the in-form Dimitri Payet.

Captain John O'Shea will continue to build up a relationship with Kone, being flanked by speedy full backs Patrick Van Aanholt and DeAndre Yedlin. 

American right back Yedlin has replaced Billy Jones in the Sunderland defence, who had come in for some criticism from  a section of supporters.

Can Defoe inflict a defeat on his former club? | Image source: Andrew Orchard
Can Defoe inflict a defeat on his former club? | Image source: Andrew Orchard

Return to Upton Park for Defoe

Sunderland's top scorer Jermain Defoe will lead the line against West Ham, the club that he began his professional career at in 1999.

Defoe will play his final ever game at Upton Park, scoring 29 goals in 93 games for the Hammers before leaving in 2004.

Defoe has scored 10 goals so far this season, and his goals will be key to keeping Sunderland in the Premier League.

Predicted XI (4-3-3): Mannone; Yedlin, Kone, O'Shea, Van Aanholt; M'Vila, Cattermole, Rodwell; Khazri, Defoe, Borini.