Saturday's big match preview

WHEN Roy Keane threw his toys out of the pram, threw in the towel and left the Stadium of Light back in December, there were few that gave Sunderland a chance of staying up. There is still a possibility that they could return to the relegation zone, as th

WHEN Roy Keane threw his toys out of the pram, threw in the towel and left the Stadium of Light back in December, there were few that gave Sunderland a chance of staying up.

There is still a possibility that they could return to the relegation zone, as they sit just three points from danger with 32 points from 30 games. But such has been the accomplished job done by new boss Ricky Sbragia, few think that they will now stumble.

Keane, of course, apparently ran the club with a rod of iron, so anyone coming in to replace him would seem like Steve Coppell's quieter brother in comparison.

But the Scot has managed to get the team playing again and with the likes of nine-goal Kenwyne Jones and 10-goal Djibril Cisse up front, they are a danger to most sides.


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Their most recent form hasn't been that good however. They haven't won for five matches, while away from home they have lost their last two - 1-0 at Manchester City and 2-0 at Liverpool, though they did manage a well-earned goaless draw against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium in the game before that.

Keane splashed the cash at the beginning of the season, with West Ham the major beneficiary. Steed Malbranque and David Healy did arrive from Spurs and Fulham, but the former boss shelled out �8million on centre half Anton Ferdinand, and another �4.5million to prise George McCartney away from Upton Park.

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Both are likely to play on Saturday and should receive fairly warm welcomes, but loan signing Calum Davenport is ineligible for the match.

Tal Ben-Haim was the only signing Sunderland made in the January window, as the Black Cats felt they had enough in their squad to survive, and they are likely to be proved right.

West Ham won at Sunderland back in November, though they were far from convincing.

Valon Behrami scored his first goal in claret and blue to give them the lead, then missed a sitter, before West Ham defended stoutly in the second half to hold on for all three points.

West Ham's record against the Black Cats at home is also pretty good.

They have won five of the last six clashes, with the only reverse being when Mick McCarthy's side clinched promotion at Upton Park with a 2-1 win back in 2005.

Whether West Ham can find the striking power will be the secret to this game.

They should have too much for the north east outfit, but with so many injuries and Carlton Cole especially, doubtful, they may struggle to find the net.

Added to that, we can expect to see a battling performance from the former Hammers and this could be a very tough game.

Even so, West Ham should just shade it.

Probable team: Fulop, Bardsley, Col-lins, Ferdinand, McCar-tney, Whitehead, Lead-bitter, Reid, Malb-ranque, Jones, Cisse.

Prediction:

West Ham 1 Sunderland 0

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