It may be too soon to call this a ‘six-pointer’, but both Sunderland and Bournemouth will have earmarked this fixture as one in which they can claim vital points in their respective battles against the drop.
The Black Cats’ heavy 4-1 defeat at the hands of Tottenham last week brought their mini-revival to a juddering halt, and they will have to pick themselves up for the visit of their relegation rivals.
A positive for the Mackems in 2016 so far has been the form of 21-year-old goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, who has returned from a loan spell at Preston and impressed between the sticks for Sam Allardyce’s side.
Pickford will be a busy man in the Sunderland goal, like his predecessors; the four goals shipped at White Hart Lane brought their total of goals conceded to 45 – the worst in the top flight – whilst they have also allowed more shots at their goal than any other team.
Bournemouth make the long journey to the North-East having lost just once in their last five games on the road, with that defeat coming at league leaders Arsenal.
The Cherries might fancy an early goal in this one; no team has scored more times in the opening 15 minutes this season than the South Coast outfit (seven), whilst no side has conceded more than Sunderland’s eight in that time period.
Eddie Howe knows all about the potency of Sunderland striker Jermain Defoe; Howe was in the Bournemouth team when Defoe arrived at Dean Court in 2000, before promptly scoring in ten consecutive matches.
Sunderland striker Steven Fletcher is struggling with an illness, which could open the door for new loanee Dame N’Doye to make his debut for the club. DeAndre Yedlin is also back in contention to fill in at right-back.
For the visitors, Benik Afobe is doubtful after limping off in the win over Norwich last weekend, while Matt Ritchie and Josh King are also battling to prove their fitness ahead of the match at the Stadium of Light.
League Position: Sunderland – 19th (18 pts); Bournemouth – 15th (24 pts)
Last Meeting: Bournemouth 2-0 Sunderland (September 19, 2015)
Form: Sunderland – LLLWWL Bournemouth – WDLDLW
Key Players: Sunderland – Jermain Defoe; Bournemouth – Harry Arter
Shoot Says: Sunderland 2-2 Bournemouth