Sunderland eye key win vs. Allardyce, fellow relegation contender Palace

Sunderland go into a crucial game at Selhurst Park buoyed by a good point taken off title-chasing Tottenham Hotspur which gives a sliver of hope to the road support. Those that will be making the long journey to South London will have a degree of optimism after Sunderland became only the third team to stop Spurs from scoring in the Premier League.

Now they face former manager Sam Allardyce, who engineered an unlikely reprieve from the drop last season, as well as Patrick van Aanholt, who is in line to make his Palace debut and whose departure came amid some acrimony at the Stadium of Light.

Allardyce has had little to say about his stay on Wearside and there are some supporters who believe that he was pleased to get away from a club that he saw as failing to live up to the promises that were made to him when he took over for Dick Advocaat in October 2015.

Now he is in charge of Palace and his tried and trusted techniques had not worked until Tuesday's game at Bournemouth. He can pit his wits against David Moyes, a manager who has always managed at bigger and more successful clubs than Sam. He knows the Sunderland players' strengths and weaknesses while the likes of John O'Shea and Jermain Defoe will know exactly how the former England boss drills his players.

Having shown a discipline rarely seen this season in that draw with Tottenham, Sunderland must repeat that against a Palace side that on paper, should not be anywhere near the bottom three. Good performances are required from the spine of the team from keeper Vito Mannone, who has made errors recently, through O'Shea and Lamine Kone who ought to give Sunderland some stability at the back.

Along with Jason Denayer, these two made sure that Harry Kane, Dele Alli and later on Vincent Janssen did not have a sniff at goal. They did this by assiduous tracking, challenging for the ball early and not allowing Spurs any room to operate. They have to repeat this with Christian Benteke, often a real thorn in the Black Cats' side -- as he showed with a headed winner in the 94th minute at the Stadium of Light back in September.

At the other end of the pitch it is imperative that chances, if created, are taken and Defoe, who scored the winning goal in Sunderland's last visit to Selhurst is sure to have the Palace defenders on their toes for the full 90 minutes.

However, if he fails to hit the net, it is difficult to see where any goal will come from. Van Aanholt was the club's joint second top scorer (3 goals) and he has now left, the excellent Victor Anichebe (3 goals) is injured and Fabio Borini's only strike was a late consolation in a 3-1 defeat at Old Trafford.

Borini has been a disappointment this season and has been left out for the equally disappointing Adnan Januzaj. One of these two needs to step up and take some responsibility or else their careers in England are soon going to be over. Saturday would be a good time to start.

The midfield is full of players who work hard but are not goalscorers so this places extra responsibility on the forwards. Jermain Defoe is not fazed by this; others are. Allardyce will know that if you stop Defoe you stop Sunderland. His central defenders will have been well prepared.

So, what Sunderland need to win is a defence which concentrates for the full game and does not allow crosses to be put in to Benteke; a midfield which can augment the defenders when under pressure and then get up field quickly to support the two forwards and the strikers to beaver away and take at least one of the opportunities that comes their way.

That is what has to happen. Sunderland cannot afford to lose this game and even a draw will leave them dropping further behind others in the relegation logjam. David Moyes must go for the win and hope that those around him drop points. Only by winning games can The Great Escape Volume V be a realistic prospect.