Andy Carroll's importance to West Ham is on par with Lionel Messi's to Barcelona, according to Sunderland manager Gus Poyet.

Carroll hasn't featured for the Hammers this season, after aggravating a heel injury he picked up in May.

Poyet's men travel to Upton Park searching for a win that would close the points gap from those outside of the relegation zone.

The Uruguayan said about Carroll and West Ham: "'I am sure if you play Barcelona it is better if Messi doesn’t play,' Poyet told reporters. 'I am sure if you play Real Madrid, it is better if Ronaldo doesn’t play.

"They are important players but it is an opportunity for other players who come in who are Premier League players and I am sure who comes in will give 100 per cent.

"On paper it will be better for us (that Andy Carroll is injured) but you need to play the game because they are Premier League players.

"You must win every game but the problem is when you are bottom and playing a team near the bottom it is called a must-win game. And we have to make sure we win this one."

The £35 million striker has recently returned to training, but is yet to be ready to take to the field, with Allardyce commenting that he can't be rushed back.

In Carroll's place has been Carlton Cole and Modibo Maiga, who have failed to impress the Upton Park faithful.

As West Ham slip further down the league table, with January approaching and their rivals strengthening, their Lionel Messi will be extremely integral to Allardyce's future and ultimately, their survival.

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Topics:
Sunderland
Andrew Carroll
Premier League
West Ham United
Football