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Sunderland v West Brom: Defoe eyes ideal opposition

Jermain Defoe believes Sunderland can take advantage of West Brom’s Premier League safety by taking all three points when the teams meet at the Stadium of Light on Saturday.

With eight games left to play in the Premier League this season, Tony Pulis’ side are in 11th place, comfortably 13 points clear of the relegation zone, while Sunderland are third from bottom.

Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce has set his players a target of four wins, but the Black Cats have won just two of their previous 10 league games, throwing away leads in each of their last three to draw.

Defoe, who has scored 12 league goals this season, said his team-mates would be out to avenge the 1-0 defeat they suffered at The Hawthorns in October.

“There are eight games left and the manager has said four wins. It’s doable with the way we’re playing,” Defoe told the club’s official website.

“We’ve got five home games, which is important and we should take advantage of that and try and win them, but even away from home we are solid.

“West Brom are a good team. It’s not going to be easy. They’ve got a way of playing, and they beat us 1-0 at their place at the beginning of the season.

“Teams that are safe and not really playing for anything, maybe their players take their foot off the gas a little bit and think about their holidays.

“This is a game that we have to win.”

Sunderland were dealt a blow in their preparations for the game, having to release defender Emmanuel Eboue after he was given a year-long ban by FIFA, following his failure to pay money owed to a former agent.

An ankle injury keeps Sunderland forward Duncan Watmore out of contention for the game, but Jeremain Lens has recovered from a hernia problem and is available for selection.

Callum McManaman is hoping to feature for West Brom for the first time since January after completing 45 minutes in a mid-week friendly as part of his rehabilitation from an ankle ligament injury.

He said: “It was my first game back and I felt good. I’ve trained for just under a week and it’s going well.

“I could have played longer – I played the opening 45 minutes and I did a 4 x 4 yesterday morning so it was probably the equivalent of a full game.

“I hope to be back for the weekend, certainly for the bench.”

The trip to Wearside comes too soon for West Brom midfielder James Morrison, who will return to full training next week after a hamstring injury, and fellow midfielder Chris Brunt remains sidelined with a ruptured cruciate ligament.

West Brom have lost just one of their last 12 Premier League matches against Sunderland, and go into the game having lost three of their last 10 league games.

Key Opta stats:

– Saido Berahino has scored three goals in his last three Premier League appearances against the Black Cats.
– Sunderland have exactly the same number of points from 30 Premier League games this season as they had in 2014/15 (26).
– The Baggies have beaten Sunderland more times in the Premier League than any other team (9).
– Tony Pulis’ side have won just one of their last nine Premier League away games (W1 D4 L4).
– Jermain Defoe’s tally of 12 Premier League goals is his best in a season since 2009/10, in which he scored 18 times for Spurs.
– Tony Pulis’ side have fired in 87 shots on target this season, fewer than any other top flight club.

Thu 31 Mar, 2016
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