January 21, 2016

The January reinforcements are settling in quite nicely for Bournemouth, and the Cherries are looking to further distance themselves from the drop Saturday when they face relegation-threatened Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.

Benik Afobe quickly found a spot in manager Eddie Howe's starting XI, and the striker delivered some immediate dividends in his second start since arriving from Wolverhampton by opening his account with a 75th-minute goal to cap Bournemouth's 3-0 victory over Norwich City on Saturday.

"It's really important new players come in and do well," Howe told Bournemouth's official website. "Benik is a striker and it's important for him to score goals. The finish was a high quality from a great ball from Charlie (Daniels), he did very well today and made some good runs so there's good signs for him."

Dan Gosling and Daniels added goals on either side of halftime as the Cherries ended a four-match winless spell in top-flight play. Juan Iturbe, who was brought in from Italian side AS Roma, had a 40-minute stint off the bench for his Premier League debut as Bournemouth (6-6-10) gave themselves some breathing room from the drop as they enter this match three points clear of 18th-place Newcastle United.

The next step for the Cherries is to duplicate such a performance on the road, where they've claimed 11 points from as many matches. While Bournemouth have gone 2-2-1 in their last five away from Dean Court, they've failed to score in their last two road contests in league play, and are kicking off three-game swing that includes a fourth-round FA Cup clash at Portsmouth before a trip to Crystal Palace.

While the Cherries carry momentum into this match, Sunderland (5-3-14) are looking for some after a 4-1 collapse versus Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane on Saturday. The Black Cats appeared to have things going their way after Patrick Van Aanholt opened the scoring in the 40th minute, but Christian Eriksen quickly equalised for Spurs, and the defence came undone after intermission as Eriksen scored again around markers by Mousa Dembele and Harry Kane.

It was the sixth defeat in eight league matches for Sunderland, who have shipped 18 of their league-worst 45 goals allowed in that span and yielded three or more in a game for the eighth time. With Costel Pantilimon plucked away by Watford, it appears manager Sam Allardyce is going to sink or swim in this relegation fight with Jordan Pickford.

The 21-year-old goalkeeper has not provided much optimism since his recall from Preston North End, having backstopped Sunderland's FA Cup exit at Arsenal's hands in his debut. He also has not received much help from his defence in either match, with newcomer and central defender Jan Kirchhoff's torrid-31 minute bow for the Black Cats on Saturday resulting in a deflected goal past a stranded Pickford and a penalty converted by Kane that gathered widespread ridicule across social media.

Kirchhoff had fallen out of favour at Bayern Munich - playing just one minute there this season - before "Big Sam" brought the towering German to Wearside for a reported £3 million.

"From my point of view it was really disappointing to see the team lose as they did in the last 15 minutes or so," Allardyce told Sunderland's official website. "We were in the game for so long and worked extremely hard and we finally got a breakthrough, but unfortunately our problems lay with ourselves today rather than the opposition.

"Our big-game mentality will come into play again when we face Bournemouth; it was like that against Aston Villa and Swansea City so we hope we can keep that mentality going. When we've needed that result we've pulled it off and we certainly need that next week against a team that is in and around us."

Bournemouth had little trouble in the reverse fixture while Dick Advocaat roamed the Sunderland coaches' box in September, trotting out 2-0 winners on goals by Callum Wilson and Matthew Ritchie inside the first nine minutes.

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