The Black Cats won a crucial match against Norwich City last time out which kept their fight for relegation alive. Now they face an Arsenal side this Sunday who find themselves in a battle for a top four finish and who need a win to maintain a gap between the chasing Manchester sides.
Sunderland are now only one point behind Norwich in 17th, with a game in hand, as the fight to remain in the Premier League intensifies. Their victory at Carrow Road was hugely significant, not only in terms of points, but also for their momentum.
The win ended a run of six games without a win, a sequence of results including four draws and two losses. Sunderland’s home form has been slightly better than their away record this season, so boss Sam Allardyce will hope his side can spring a surprise on Arsenal.
With the title now seemingly out of reach, Arsenal must concentrate on securing a top four finish. However, with Liverpool progressing into the semi-finals of the Europa League, fourth place may not guarantee Champions League football next season.
Therefore, the importance of this game is huge, both at the top and the foot of the table. The Gunners have history on their side though with the last two fixtures involving these sides ending in a 3-1 win for the North London club.
Sunderland will hope to start with the same team that beat Norwich last time out, but they may be forced into some changes.
Striker Fabio Borini, midfielder Jack Rodwell and forward Jeremain Lens are all doubts after picking up minor injuries. The trio will be assessed closer to game, but still may make the squad.
Arsenal on the other hand only have one injury concern. England international Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is unlikely to return to full fitness until early May due to a knee injury.
Other than the midfielder’s absence, manager Arsene Wenger is in a rare position where he has most of his first-team star available.
League Positions: Sunderland – 18th (30 pts); Arsenal – 3rd (63 pts)
Form: Sunderland – DDDDLW; Arsenal – DWWDDW
Previous Meeting: Arsenal 3-1 Sunderland – January, 2016; FA Cup
Key Players: Sunderland – Jermain Defoe; Arsenal – Alexis Sanchez
Shoot Says: Sunderland 1-3 Arsenal