Injury-ravaged Sunderland take on relegated West Ham
Black Cats sitting comfortably in mid-table
Sunday, May 22 Premier League
West Ham v Sunderland 4pm
A meaningless match for West Ham who are guaranteed to end the season bottom of the table, but a win for Sunderland could see them leap from 14th up to ninth if other results go there way.
Injuries have wrecked the Black Cats second half of the season, but an impressive first has meant they are well clear of the bottom three.
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A 2-1 win at Bolton was followed up by a 3-1 home defeat to struggling Wolves and the fans travelling nor manager Steve Bruce can be completely sure which Sunderland team will turn up at Upton Park to take on Kevin Keen’s side.
Last week Bruce had a bench made up completely of reserve and youth team players and it would not be a surprise to do him do the same this Sunday in east London.
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It’s hard to see what Sunderland takes to the field because of injuries, but after scoring last week winger come front man Stephane Sessegnon could lead the attack.
Pace is his biggest weapon so it is likely West Ham will drop deep and ask their quickest defender James Tomkins to stay tight to the Benin striker.
Boudewijn Zenden is set to play his last match for Sunderland. Playing in an advanced central role, he will be the main support to Sessegnon, so tracking his runs will be important as will closing him down, because, despite being 34, Zenden still has a powerful, accurate shot.
Temporary wingers Steed Malbranque and Jordan Henderson offer good delivery out wide, so both West Ham full backs will need support to deal with their danger, or they could once again struggle against a side who play with width.
Centre-half pairing Nedum Onouha and John Mensah are both powerful while the on loan Onouha gives the defence the vital speed that Mensah and left back Phil Bardsley lack.
Former Hammer Anton Ferdinand is likely to remain absent with a hamstring injury and the lack of familiarity among the Sunderland back four could be their undoing.
Prediction: West Ham 2 Sunderland 1