Stewart Downing is confident West Ham will get the three points against his former loan club Sunderland this weekend because of the absence of their best player – Adam Johnson.
The 30-year-old is desperate to help the Hammers claim a much needed victory at the Boleyn Ground on Saturday.
They’re without a win in their last eight in all competitions and against a relegation threatened Black Cats, who will have newly appointed manager Dick Advocaat in the dugout, it could be a tricky contest, but one which Downing is confident they can overcome.
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The England international is wary of the threat his former side poses, though, but believes the absence of one man in particular provides a big boost to West Ham’s hopes of victory.
“Steven Fletcher on his day is a goal scorer, Connor Wickham is also a handful. They’re missing Adam Johnson obviously which is a big boost for us because he’s probably their best player. Other than that we’re pretty strong and we’ve got goalscorers of our own in the team,” he told the official club website.
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Johnson has been suspended by the club pending the outcome of a police investigation after he was arrested on suspicion of having sexual activity with a 15-year-old girl. The influential winger, who has scored four goals and created 31 chances this season, will be a huge miss for the visitors.
“The way we’ve been playing and the players we have here, we’re capable of winning. With a new manager in they’ll be lifted and want to impress him so we need to be aware of that and expect a difficult game,” Downing added.
“We should have beaten them when we played them at their place too. Our own form has been quite good recently. We have to start well and if we play like we did in the second-half against Chelsea we’ll win.”
The two sides drew 1-1 at the Stadium of Light in December and their recent run of form is similar with both teams having drawn three and lost three of their last six in the league, although the Irons have gone longer without tasting victory – their 3-0 home win against Hull City came two months ago.
Despite this they’ve put in some great performances against top sides and should they play to their potential they can inflict more misery on a Sunderland outfit that got hammered 4-0 by Aston Villa last time out.
Downing will be hoping he is deployed in his favoured central role at the weekend after failing to have an impact from wide areas in the last few matches.
He was in scintillating form before Christmas playing at the tip of a midfield diamond and helping West Ham climb into the top four, he will be looking to get back to his best for the remaining fixtures.
“I’m due a goal I think but if the team wins then I’m not bothered, that’s the main thing,” he said.
Downing has five goals and eight assists thus far, combined with a staggering 72 chances created, he will be pivotal in unlocking Sunderland’s shabby defence.
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