Here’s five things we can expect to see between tomorrow and Sunday…
1) In or out for United
Depicting any fixture in November as a “must win” or, even worse, as a “crucial encounter” is often ludicrous and reveals an over reliance on cliches. However, Sunday’s clash between United and Arsenal is likely to reveal a lot about both teams.
Arsenal have boosted their credentials with back-to-back wins against Liverpool and, even more impressively, Borussia Dortmund and arrive at Old Trafford having won 14 of their last 15 away games.
United, on the other hand, have seemingly found a bit of form themselves, going eight games unbeaten but will be with their backs against the wall on Sunday. A win would could provide David Moyes’ men with a springboard for the rest of the season, but a defeat will see them slump 11 points adrift of Arsenal and all but end their hopes of retaining the title.
2) Norwich and West Ham must find the net
Saturday’s late kick-off at Carrow Road promises to be one for those who intensely dislike goals.
Norwich strikers have found the net only once between them and come up against the Premier League’s meanest away defence. Defensive solidity is just about all that Big Sam has to brag about at this stage of the season, considering injuries have forced the Hammers to field a 4-6-0 formation that has seen goals not exactly flowing in.
Of the two sides, however, Norwich are the one in the worse position as they’re currently in the drop zone and need to bounce back from the 7-0 shellacking they suffered last week against Manchester City.
3) Last chance saloon for Palace
Much like in United’s case, it seems ungenerous and shortsighted to bill a match involving the side bottom of the table as a last chance saloon.
Except, of course, that’s exactly what their game against Everton represents for Crystal Palace, whose quest to secure Premier League survival seems increasingly impossible.
The Eagles’ season have been so excruciatingly bad that they’ve managed to pick half of the points Derby had at this stage of the season during their terrible 2007-08 season, when the Rams picked up the lowest point tally in Premier League history.
A unlikely win against Everton would boost the morale as much as the table. Hope springs eternal and all that.
4) City could do with some consistency on the road
They’re not quite at Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde’s level yet, but the difference between City’s performances at home and away is rather alarming.
For all their brilliance at the Etihad, where they have scored 12 goals in the last two games, Manuel Pellegrini’s men have already lost three times on the road and have looked far from the ruthless machine they’ve resembled on home turf.
A trip to the Stadium of Light should in theory provide them with the perfect chance to improve their record but, having been boosted by beating Southampton in the Capital One Cup, Sunderland will be up for it.
Furthermore, City have lost their last three trips to Sunderland by 1-0. Don’t bank on history to repeat itself, though.
5) Newcastle a trickier opponent than AVB might like
Football and pantomime always go hand in hand at St James’ Park, but last Saturday’s 2-0 win against Chelsea has done wonders for the morale of Alan Pardew’s men, who will need the same defensive solidity if they’re to pick up points at White Hart Lane.
Spurs’ lack of goals has been well documented, but AVB’s men could finally get off the mark against the team with the worst defensive record of all the teams not in the relegation zone.
However, while Roberto Soldado & Co. must find the net, Spurs’ back four should also keep a close eye on Loic Remy, for Newcastle are likely to prove a trickier opponent than expected.