West Brom-Sunderland Preview
Picking up points and slowly moving towards safety have Sunderland feeling positive about remaining in the Premier League. A victory would have them feeling much better, and possibly out of the drop zone.
The Black Cats get that chance Saturday when they try to beat West Bromwich Albion for just the second time in seven years.
Sunderland (6-8-16) are 18th in the league, one point in front of Newcastle and two back of Norwich City and safety from the relegation zone.
The Black Cats, though, could get some help from the Magpies - their North East neighbours - who visit the Canaries.
Sunderland have tied three straight matches after playing Newcastle to a 1-all draw in the Tyne-Wear derby March 20.
"We have big, big games coming up," goalkeeper Vito Mannone told the team's official website. "The next one is massive and we need the three points, so we will take it from there.
"The boost a victory would provide would allow us to turn a corner and give us the momentum that can give us a further boost in the final seven games of the season."
Jermain Defoe is also giving them a boost with one goal in each of the last two matches and eight in the past 11. The forward, however, hasn't scored in his last four meetings with West Brom after netting one in three straight.
The Black Cats fell 1-0 to the Baggies on Oct. 17, and they've been outscored 25-11 while going 1-3-8 over their last 12 matchups.
Unlike Sunderland, West Bromwich Albion (10-9-11) are firmly safe midtable at 11th, 13 points above the drop and 11 below a Europa League position.
The Baggies didn't do the Black Cats any favours March 19, losing 1-0 to Norwich while failing to put a shot on target in a listless effort that drew the ire of manager Tony Pulis.
"It was very disappointing. It was a poor game," he said. "We've played so well in recent weeks - to put up a performance like that is very disappointing.
"Monday to Friday means nothing. It's Saturday where it counts."
Salomon Rondon is looking to get back on the score sheet after being limited to one shot against Norwich. The forward had four goals over the previous six matches, including one in each of the last two away.
The Baggies could get a lift with Callum McManaman potentially back from a left knee injury that's sidelined him for 10 games across all competitions. He played 45 minutes in a friendly with the West Brom U-21 squad Tuesday.
"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 hope to be back for the weekend, certainly for the bench.
"It's a good period to come back. There is less pressure on us now and I want to prove myself if I get the chance."
That's not the situation for Sunderland, who are feeling the pressure of a fourth straight season in a relegation fight.
"There's an old cliche that every game's a cup final, but it is now for us. We want to get three points," midfielder Jack Rodwell said.