The clash between Sunderland and West Brom could act as the deciding factor as to whether each team secures their position in the Premier League for next season, as both currently occupy the two spots just above the relegation zone. The situation is clear cut: Each team simply needs a draw in their penultimate game to ensure they will be playing in the top flight again next season. In this scenario, huge swings in goal differences would be required for Norwich, the team sat directly below Sunderland, to have any chance of survival.
After seven defeats in eight weeks between February and April, it was not looking promising for Sunderland ahead of games against Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United. Sunderland went into their match against City in 20th place, seven points behind Norwich in 17th. However, a 2-2 draw at the Etihad sparked a dramatic turnaround for The Black Cats, in which they have gained ten points from their last four games. Sunderland followed this up with three consecutive wins, first breaking Jose Mourinho’s incredible home record at Chelsea with a 2-1 victory, before beating Cardiff 4-0 and taking a 1-0 victory at Old Trafford against United. This run of late season form has catapulted Gus Poyet’s men to the brink of survival, but defeat against West Brom would take their fight for survival down to the wire.
Poyet has named an identical starting line-up for the last four matches and it is likely that he will continue that against West Brom. Connor Wickham will lead the attack, with Fabio Borini and Adam Johnson offering the support from advanced midfield roles. The hosting Black Cats are without a victory over West Brom since December 2008 when Kenwyne Jones scored a brace during a 4-0 victory.
West Brom also endured a run of defeats to Aston Villa, Cardiff and Spurs, despite having been 2-0 up within the first ten minutes in all three games. However, victories over relegation rivals Swansea, Norwich and West Ham in recent weeks have left the Baggies three points clear of the relegation zone. Although West Brom have all but guaranteed another season in the Premier League, Pepe Mel will be hoping that his team can repeat their victory from the reverse fixture in September when they took a comfortable 3-0 win over Sunderland, after what has been a bumpy season at the Hawthorns.
KICK-OFF: Wednesday, 7.45pm
PAST THREE MEETINGS…
West Brom 3 (Sessegnon, Ridgewell, Amalfitano) Sunderland 0, Premier League, September 2013
West Brom 2 (Lukaku 2) Sunderland 1 (Sassegnon), Premier League, February 2013
Sunderland 2 (Gardner, Sassegnon) West Brom 4 (Gera, Long, Lukaku, Fortune), Premier League, November 2012
Sunderland are without a victory over West Brom since December 2008 when they won 4-0 at home.
Sunderland have not won four games in a row in the Premier League for 14 years.
The Black Cats have the worst record in the Premier League against bottom-half opposition, earning just 11 points from 16 matches.
West Brom have not lost in the last eight meetings between the two sides, winning seven and drawing once.
West Brom have drawn the most Premier League games this season with 15.
West Brom need a point from their last two games to guarantee their Premier League safety. Two defeats would still likely be enough to beat the drop with Norwich's goal difference currently 19 goals worse than the Baggies.
Sunderland to win: 2.10
West Brom to win: 4.20
TV: Highlights on BBC1 at 10.40pm.