December 25, 2014

Three points would be the perfect festive pick-me-up for Steve Bruce's Hull City.

Hull (2-7-8) travel up the east coast to face Sunderland at the Stadium of Light on Boxing Day in search of their first win in 11 Premier League games. Only Leicester City are keeping the Tigers off the foot of the table, while Bruce's side haven't scored since a 1-1 draw with Everton at the start of December - a span of 301 minutes - and Sunderland manager Gus Poyet admitted he can empathise with Hull's plight since the Black Cats were in a similar situation this time last year.

"They need a win," Poyet said in his pre-match press conference. "Everybody says the same, they need a win, and the next game is the most important one, so I am sure he is concentrating on us."

Hull went into the season facing their first European campaign courtesy of last season's FA Cup final appearance, but a first-round exit in the Europa League and a string of injuries to the club's summer signings have seen the Tigers struggle to live up to the high standards they set for themselves.

"They needed to prepare a squad to play in the Barclays Premier League, the Europa League and the two cups," Poyet said. "Rightly or wrongly, they brought in plenty of players because they needed a proper, big squad. Then unfortunately the Europa League didn't go very well and then you find yourselves with the two cups and the league. Then when you are not in the cup, the league is the most important. Then you get hit by injuries - it's incredible.

"What in the beginning was an absolutely fantastic season for Hull City now is quite difficult."

Poyet's Sunderland (3-10-4) have only one win more than Hull this season, but picked that up with a last-minute Adam Johnson winner in the Tyne-Wear derby at the weekend - a result that sends them into this Boxing Day fixture full of confidence.

"The atmosphere will be electric compared to what it was," Hull's Bruce said. "It's Boxing Day and they'll be full of joy because they've turned over Newcastle again. But I'm more concerned about how we're going to perform. "No matter whether Sunderland have won or lost at the weekend, I'm more concentrating on what we've got to do."

The odds appear stacked in favour of the game ending in a draw. Hull have seven draws in their opening 17 games, a tally that only Sunderland can better with an astonishing 10 - including five in their last seven matches.

Last season saw Hull beat Sunderland in both league meetings and in the FA Cup fifth round, not conceding a goal in any of those matches and winning by a 6-0 aggregate.

Both teams go into the Christmas trio of fixtures with a host of injury problems. Hull are without Steve Harper (elbow), Michael Dawson (hamstring), Mohammed Diame (knee) and Ryan Snodgrass (knee), while centre-backs Alex Bruce and Curtis Davies are doubts. Sunderland will be missing Anthony Reveillere (calf) and Patrick van Aanholt (shoulder), while Billy Jones and Emanuele Giaccherini may return from hamstring and ankle problems, respectively.

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