Date: 27th February 2016 at 7:21am
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West Ham could move into the top five with a win over Sunderland, whose manager Sam Allarydce makes his first return to Upton Park since leaving last summer.

The current incumbent in the home dugout, Slaven Bilic, has said that he hopes Allardyce will receive a ‘warm reception’ from the Boleyn Ground faithful, but Big Sam’s style of play was never popular in East London and they have made big strides this season under the Croatian.

The Hammers progressed into the last-eight of the FA Cup with a 5-1 win at Blackburn last weekend, with Dimitri Payet again in imperious form; the Frenchman’s form has been vital in establishing Bilic’s side in the top-half and he will be influential in their pursuit of Europa League football.

Only two sides have come away from Upton Park with three points this season, as the Hammers seek to cap their last campaign at their 112-year home in style; a top-six finish would be their first since 1998/99, when Harry Redknapp was in charge.

Sunderland will be looking to carry on from where they left off last time out, having beaten Manchester United 2-1 at the Stadium of Light a fortnight ago.

Allardyce’s side – who took a point away from Anfield on their last away trip – have picked up their performances and despite still sitting second bottom are just a point off safety. A win in the early kick-off would see them climb out of the relegation zone and put pressure on relegation rivals Norwich and Newcastle.

The Black Cats have lost nine times on the road in all this season, and their tally of 36 goals conceded on their travels is comfortably the worst in the division.

Team News:

Cheikhou Kouyate is available for the hosts having had his red card at Ewood Park rescinded, and Bilic’s forward options are boosted by the return of Andy Carroll. Winston Reid could be available, but Saturday may well be too soon for the New Zealand international.

Wingers Jeremain Lens and Duncan Watmore are out for Sunderland, but they are the only first-team players missing. Sebastien Larsson and Younes Kaboul are back in contention, whilst Billy Jones and Jan Kirchoff have recovered from minor knocks picked up in the win over Manchester United.

League Positions: West Ham – 7th (40 pts); Sunderland – 19th (23 pts)
Previous Meeting: Sunderland 2-2 West Ham – October 3, 2015
League Form: West Ham – WLDWLD; Sunderland – WLDLDW
Key Players: West Ham – Dimitri Payet; Sunderland – Jermain Defoe
Shoot Says: West Ham 2-0 Sunderland

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