At the end of a week in which discussion over the domestic underperformance of Manchester United has run like a seam through this site, David Moyes takes his side to the Stadium of Light - it is a game in which only victory will do. United cannot afford to fall further behind the pack.
Many could have foreseen United losing their air of invincibility following the departure of Fergie, but few predicted the inherent vulnerability now hanging like a cloud over Old Trafford. As unfair as it may seem given the fragile nature of a squad inadequately augmented by Ed Woodward during the summer, football's adage rings true - the buck always stops with the manager.
Part of the immediate concern over Moyes has been his media presence, his soundbites becoming more and more bizarre. This week, we were told that United did not have the quality to win the Champions League, oddly followed by an insistence that Moyes had an understanding of the pressure upon him from his tenures at Everton and Preston. If this assertion was intended to be serious, it is the most worrying sign of all - this is a job and a burden far removed from anything else the Scot will have previously experienced in management; the quicker that is appreciated, the better.
The best managers, and let's use Fergie as the obvious example, knew when to talk a lot whilst actually saying very little, particularly in times of adversity. What matters now are neither admissions of weakness nor assertions of strength, but points on the board and a climb up the table. The salient fact is clear - this is now United's worst start to a league season since 1989.
The perfect antidote should be a trip to a managerless and winless Sunderland; the worry is that nowhere feels like the ideal journey right now.
What started as a slight dip in form and performance is quickly becoming an established slump. The Hammers now have no win since the opening day, and whilst they were desperately unlucky to lose against Hull last week, cursing fortune in defeat to a promoted side reveals more than it explains.
The most worrying aspect of West Ham's position adjacent to the bottom three is that they have not had a comparatively difficult start to the season. Whereas Fulham and Crystal Palace below them have both already faced two of last season's top four, a home game against Everton has been the Hammers' toughest assignment. Such relative pleasantry can only last so long - Sunday's trip to White Hart Lane precedes fixtures against Manchester City (h) and Swansea (a).
Evidently, West Ham's malaise is due to a lack of goals, having scored two since their opening-day victory over Cardiff. With a forward line of Modibo Maiga, Ricardo Vaz Te and the newly signed Mladen Petric, it may come as no surprise that no striker has scored this season, and Andy Carroll's return should be welcomed with a street party on Green Street.
It is expected that Sam Allardyce will be permitted to bring in at least one forward in January. The concerning and growing suspicion at the Boleyn Ground is that such a signing will be expected to assist in what may be a rather serious fight against relegation. A game against rivals currently riding the crest of a wave of investment will do little to lighten the mood.
The form of his team mates and the results of his side have rather sheltered Spurs' new striker from any criticism, but, on the quiet, Soldado has rather failed to impress so far in England. Completing just four passes in his 77 minutes against Chelsea demonstrates that the Spaniard is in danger of rather failing to impose himself on matches, and two penalties are the sole domestic return thus far - this was not what Daniel Levy had in mind when signing a £26million cheque.
It is early days, that much is clear, but a home game against a struggling West Ham side provides a fine opportunity for a first league goal from open play. Doing so would put minds at ease and initial doubts on hold.
Manchester City and consistency
As Nick Miller said in this feature a fortnight ago, Manuel Pellegrini's rather inauspicious start at the Etihad has rather flown under the radar thanks to the troubles of his rival across the city. That week, the Chilean recorded a hugely impressive Manchester derby with a choice of side that topped our list of Top Ten Decisions, but here we are again.
In fact, City's lack of consistency is starting to become more than alarming. Since the start of the season they are yet to record consecutive results in the league (WLWDWL), and the difference between the verve and élan displayed against United in comparison to the tedium of the Britannia or the defensive sloppiness of Villa Park will have left a great deal of head-scratching amongst Pellegrini and his staff.
Having spent north of £90million in the summer and having a fixture list that included two promoted clubs alongside three of last season's bottom eight, dropping eight points should be deemed as unsatisfactory, particularly after having won their toughest game with some ease.
Many of City's Premier League worries clearly lie on the road (only Crystal Palace have taken fewer points from their first three away games), and they will still be confident of maintaining their 100% home league record against an Everton that sit above them in the table. Pellegrini must demand a period of conviction from his collection of expensive stars - on such consistency are title bids founded.
City fans must surely soon be considering the perturbing question - at what point does a slump in form transform into an established decline in quality?
One of the theories on Hart is that he has suffered from a lack of competition at both club and international level, leading to a subconscious complacency, and when a goalkeeper gets complacent (more than any other position on the pitch) it becomes almost immediately evident. Whatever the cause, Hart must soon turn around this dip - his commanding displays of 2011/12 have now become the exception rather than the rule.
Such is the all-encompassing coverage of the Premier League, Hart only has around 60 hours out of the firing line, and on Saturday lunchtime his performance will be scrutinised to the nth degree ahead of England's World Cup qualifiers. After six goals conceded in his last two games, a clean sheet would be the perfect tonic.
Ricky Van Wolfswinkel
One shot on target in his last five Premier League games. That's more dogcock than Wolfswinkel, and with Gary Hooper fit again, Norwich's record signing needs an immediate improvement.
As written earlier this week on a rather fine website, Monday night could be the start of a rather grim period for Alan Pardew.
If the goal of a manager is to get players playing to their full potential (the clichéd 'get the best out of them'), then Pardew is falling woefully short of his task. Newcastle's back five that looked so out of sorts against Everton on Monday contained senior internationals for Italy, France (2), Netherlands and Argentina. In fact, of the 14 players used by Newcastle, only two were not full internationals. There is an argument to suggest that the depth within the squad is not satisfactory, but the current starting XI is performing a level way below par.
In midweek, Pardew took the hammer and nails to his own coffin, claiming that his side "still have a chance of the top ten". Given that Newcastle currently sit one point behind West Brom in tenth and there are still 32 games to play, such a view represents exactly the paucity of ambition fans fear has encapsulated the club since the beginning of last season.
Up until now, the principle reason for Newcastle's manager retaining the support of the St James' faithful was the supposition that Joe Kinnear was Pardew's likely replacement. Frying pan to fire, painful burns guaranteed with both. On Monday night, however, that mood seemed to change. Lose at Cardiff on Saturday, and supporters may feel that it worth taking the risk that their Director of Football may land the job, simply to be rid of the current incumbent.
Only once in the last 14 seasons has a club taken one point or fewer from their first seven games, the Portsmouth side of 2009/10 that sank without a trace. Lose to Manchester United and by Saturday evening that's the reality facing Sunderland.
Having conceded three goals in each of their last three games, the last people that Sunderland defenders and Kevin Ball wanted to see was Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney.
Suarez, Sturridge and 3-5-2
"I'm not sure there's two better in the league. These two can be the best in the country. The two of them looked very bright but they can only get better."
Whilst Brendan Rodgers' enthusing was perhaps slightly over-eager following the victory against Sunderland, Suarez and Sturridge certainly repaid the faith paid in them by their manager.
As Nick Miller wrote after the match, there is no doubt that Rodgers created his 3-5-2 formation by starting with a piece of paper and writing the names of his two in-form forwards next to each other, and working back from there. However, despite the 3-1 result, Sunday's game was not without unease - it is clear that whilst the new strategy is ideal for his two forwards, this is not necessarily the case for those behind them. Liverpool had eight fewer shots than their opponents, and were forced to make 54 clearances to Sunderland's 26.
Whether Rodgers chooses to continue with the experiment will largely depend on the performance of his two best players currently (it is worth remembering that this was only the seventh time (and first since April) that the two had started a match together).
At such times, there are no more inviting ways for a strike partnership to increase familiarity than to face Crystal Palace's defensive shambles.
It is a week since Poyet's rather honest quote regarding his potential future employment: "Since the start of the season I've dedicated myself to watching the games of teams that might call me if things weren't going too well."
The Uruguayan must be doing something right. At the time of writing, he is the bookmakers' favourite to be the next manager at Sunderland, Newcastle and Fulham. One hopes Gus has a multi-screen system set up for the weekend.
Aston Villa and Hull City
A match to decide which club can break into the top six heading into the international break. Don't pretend you saw that coming.
Daniel Storey - follow him on Twitter
I must admit, I'm enjoying these stark, monochromatic images of David Moyes. They wouldn't look out of place on a charity appeal. Could you make Sir Alex Ferguson appear with a warm sepia glow - I believe there's a preset in Photoshop called 'Good Old Days'.- doherty