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Slaven Bilic backs Sam Allardyce to save Sunderland

Published 26/02/2016

Sam Allardyce returns to Upton Park on Saturday trying to save Sunderland from relegation
Sam Allardyce returns to Upton Park on Saturday trying to save Sunderland from relegation

Slaven Bilic has backed his West Ham predecessor Sam Allardyce to save Sunderland from relegation.

The Hammers can push Sunderland closer to the drop when Allardyce makes his first return to Upton Park following his summer departure on Saturday.

However, the Black Cats are just a point from safety following a 2-2 draw at Liverpool and their surprise 2-1 win over Manchester United last time out.

Hammers boss Bilic, whose side have no such worries in seventh spot, said: " He's got a good chance. They are still there, not adrift in a position like Aston Villa.

"He has improved the squad, they are very organised and showing quality and character. They got four points from Liverpool away and Manchester United at home - any club in the world would take that.

"They are organised, stubborn, but they have quality on the break. There is still a long way to go and they are there. They definitely have a good chance to stay up."

Bilic received a midweek boost with the news key midfielder Cheikhou Kouyate's red card against Blackburn in the FA Cup had been overturned.

Kouyate was dismissed by referee Jon Moss for bringing down Adam Henley as he attempted to run through on goal, although the Rovers defender had clearly over-run the ball.

Having avoided a suspension Kouyate is free to play against Sunderland, and Croatian Bilic praised the appeal system in this country which allowed the decision to be rescinded.

"It was obvious," he said. "A player can be sent off for a nasty challenge, or to prevent a guy from scoring a goal. But it wasn't a bad challenge so the question is was it a goalscoring opportunity?

"It was clear it wasn't. He wouldn't have scored even if Cheikhou hadn't touched him. We hoped, and we expected, it would be withdrawn.

"It's great to have that in England. In other countries you can't appeal, they won't even discuss it. The referees are humans, but no matter what the situation is they can change it.

"That's very important because the stakes are so high. It's very good for English football."

Striker Andy Carroll is also available after a groin problem while right-back Sam Byram returns after being cup-tied.

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