Sunderland 3 - 1 QPRKO: Sat Mar 24 15:00:00 GMT 2012 Ground: Stadium of Light
Att: 37128 Referee: M Jones
Preview: Sunderland v QPR
Sunderland will be keen to avoid suffering back-to-back defeats against basement dwellers when they welcome Queens Park Rangers to Wearside.
The Black Cats came unstuck against relegation-threatened Blackburn in midweek, but that setback came on the road and they will return to home soil this weekend.
That could play into their hands, with Martin O'Neill having tasted defeat just once at the Stadium of the Light since succeeding Steve Bruce.
Sunderland have won five of their seven home matches under their current boss and are unbeaten in their last nine meetings with QPR, winning six of those fixtures.
They have, however, picked up just one win from their last five Premier League outings and know they need to rediscover some consistency if they are to secure a top-half finish.
QPR had hoped to be pushing towards the top 10 this season, but find themselves scrapping to preserve their top flight status.
They offered their survival bid a welcome shot in the arm on Wednesday as they secured a battling 3-2 victory over Liverpool, with that come-from-behind success lifting them out of the drop zone.
Mark Hughes' side have won only two of their last 17 in the league, though, and have picked up just two points from the last 24 on offer away from home.
Part of the problem for the capital outfit would appear to be their inability to select a settled side, with a division-high 35 players used this season.
Sunderland will be boosted by the return of Stephane Sessegnon on Saturday, with the Benin international having completed a three-match ban, but Lee Cattermole is still suspended.
The Black Cats are sweating on the fitness of John O'Shea, with a hamstring problem forcing him to miss the 2-0 defeat against Blackburn.
O'Neill is optimistic regarding the Irishman's chances of being involved this weekend, but Sotirios Kyrgiakos, who made his debut at Ewood Park, is in line to continue alongside Michael Turner if O'Shea misses out again.
Wes Brown and Titus Bramble remain among those on the treatment table, but Kieran Richardson could shake off a calf strain in time to figure.
Hughes is expected to tweak his starting XI after seeing substitutes come to the rescue against Liverpool.
Jamie Mackie stepped off the bench to turn that tie around and could be included from the start at the Stadium of Light.
Shaun Wright-Phillips, Taye Taiwo and Akos Buzsaky are also among those hoping to earn a recall, but a collection of players that includes the likes of DJ Campbell, Heidar Helguson and Alejandro Faurlin remain on the sidelines.
Possible starting XIs
Sunderland: Mignolet, Bardsley, Kyrgiakos, Turner, Bridge, Larsson, Gardner, Vaughan, McClean, Sessegnon, Bendtner.
QPR: Kenny, Young, Onuoha, Ferdinand, Taiwo, Mackie, Barton, Derry, Diakite, Cisse, Zamora.
Sunderland 3 - 1 Queens Park Rangers: Martin O'Neill Hails McClean
Martin O'Neill showered praise on man of the match James McClean after the Sunderland winger punished a lacklustre QPR outfit.
The Irishman seemed in fine celebratory mood following his contract extension at the Stadium of Light as he set up Nicklas Bendtner for Sunderland's first against Mark Hughes' struggling Rs.
McClean then laid off a pass to David Vaughan who put it on a plate for Stephane Sessegnon and the 22-year-old then rounded off his perfect performance with a second-half strike.
O'Neill could not help but be delighted with McClean and the rest of his Black Cats side who responded in superb fashion having lost at Blackburn on Tuesday night.
"I thought he (McClean) was outstanding today, absolutely outstanding. And to be perfectly honest he's been outstanding since he came into the limelight," O'Neill told Sky Sports.
"I think (it was a) great performance by him today and he's earned every penny of it and he's been a great boost to the football club here in his time.
"He's got a great attitude to it. Not just a great attitude, he's got a great ability as well as he's shown this afternoon, I thought he was outstanding and I'm obviously delighted for him."
The Sunderland boss also remarked on Bendtner's form and finishing of late and also Sessegnon's comeback from suspension, labelling both stars as "outstanding".
QPR offered little in the game and found themselves numerically disadvantaged when ex-Sunderland striker Djibril Cisse was given a straight red card for a two-footed lunge on Fraizer Campbell.
Despite Taye Taiwo's consolation, O'Neill was happy with how the hosts performed in a season arguably turned around following the Northern Irishman's appointment as they currently lie in eighth with 40 points on the board.
"I'm delighted with the performance and there were some great individual performances this afternoon," O'Neill said.
"The response was great from the team and we scored three goals in the game and played very well in good periods of the game, particularly in the second half.
"I think if you had mentioned to me early December that we could have 40 points on the board I would've taken that immediately.
"The players have been terrific, absolutely terrific and so obviously with 40 points achieved, we want to try and set your sights a bit higher and that's what we'll go for."
However, the Black Cats, who now have an FA Cup replay to concentrate on with a quarter-final clash against Everton, did suffer the disappointment of stand-in skipper John O'Shea leaving the field early after picking up an injury.
O'Neill added: "That is a disappointment because John has been playing excellently for us.
"Phil Bardsley was ill today and so missed out on the game. John went to play right-back and he's been outstanding at centre-back for us. It's a real shame, it's a calf problem and at this stage of the season it is something he wouldn't have wanted to miss, he's been really terrific for us."
Barclays Premier League
|8||West Bromwich Albion||37||48|
|10||West Ham United||37||43|
|20||Queens Park Rangers||37||25|