Can Tottenham's caretaker boss prove his credentials? Will Liverpool live up to expectations? Will Manchester United be able to get on a role? We take a look at the weekend's key talking points
By Sarah Winterburn & Adam Bate
Last Updated: 20/12/13 1:27pm
It was not difficult to predict the team Tim Sherwood would pick to face West Ham United in the Capital One Cup. It was like a parody of an anti-Andre Villas-Boas side - the team that AVB would not pick, with a 4-4-2, two wingers on their 'right' flank and five English players. For a while, it worked. But then West Ham went and ruined the romantic ending of the film by winning at the death. It seems that merely not being Andre Villas-Boas was not enough.
This weekend, live on Sky Sports 1HD and 3D in Sunday's lunchtime kick-off, Sherwood has to deliver better. He has to find a way to combat Southampton's very effective but pretty predictable style. Simply picking players with a point to prove will not be good enough. Sherwood may well be in charge for Southampton (away), West Bromwich Albion (home) and Stoke City (home), with seven points probably the minimum requirement. Otherwise, Spurs will not stay on the coattails of the top four, another season will have been wasted and Sherwood is unlikely to get the permanent job.
To read Paul Merson's thoughts on Spurs ahead of Super Sunday, click here
Top Of The Class
Following a summer loan move from Manchester City, it is now Everton feeling the benefit of Gareth Barry's presence at the club. And the familiar acclaim regarding his character has arrived.
But it is on the field where Barry has surely been misunderstood. He is seen by some as a defensively-minded midfield spoiler - hence the reason why he received such criticism for not preventing Germany's fast breaks at the 2010 World Cup, despite not being fully fit. But Barry has won eight, drawn four and lost none of the Premier League games in which he has featured this season. It is something Everton supporters are welcoming and will they will continue to do so against Swansea City on Sunday, live on Sky Sports 1HD.
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It has been almost three years since Liverpool last won four consecutive Premier League games - when Kenny Dalglish had returned to large acclaim. Now a far better Liverpool side stands on the brink of a quartet of victories, with Cardiff City the latest sacrificial lambs to the slaughter. Can Liverpool handle the weight of expectation? If they want to be considered genuine title contenders, they really must.
Anfield has seen five successive wins for Liverpool and there is little reason to suspect that Malky Mackay's hard-working but toothless side can spoil this party, particularly given the storm centring around Mackay's future and reported bust-up with owner Vincent Tan.
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Welbeck The Key?
If Manchester United want to be seen as truly getting back to their best, it would probably be fair to say they need to collect 10 points from a current and ongoing run of games. Three points were claimed with ease against a dreadful Aston Villa, with a woeful West Ham providing the next opposition. It does not have to be pretty, it does not have to be swashbuckling, but it does have to be three points at Old Trafford.
Danny Welbeck could be a key for this. We keep being told all he needs is a run of games in his favoured position so here is his run of games. Welbeck last scored in successive Premier League matches in March 2012 and there will rarely be a better opportunity than the visit of West Ham to add to Sunday's double against Villa.
Five games without a win and now at home to a managerless Tottenham side in some disarray. The good news for Mauricio Pochettino's Southampton is that Spurs - judging by their midweek showing - cannot even muster the bounce usually associated with the appointment of a new manager. Would a draw be a good result? Ordinarily, yes, but it could actually leave them closer to the bottom three than the top four. At the moment we are talking about a 'top nine' that includes Southampton but for how long?
'After The Lord Mayor's Show'
This season has been a curious one for Swansea City. Despite the assumption they are failing to reach the heights of last season, they actually have a near-identical record. And yet there is a sense that it is all a bit 'after the Lord Mayor's show' - partly because of a lack of eye-catching victories and partly because Michu has been a peripheral oft-injured figure.
This week is different - part of a Super Sunday double bill that promises a clash of similar footballing philosophies against former Swansea boss Roberto Martinez's Everton. And it comes before games against Chelsea and both Manchester clubs. If Swansea, whose manager - Michael Laudrup - has been linked with Tottenham, have ambitions of finishing in the top half of the table, they need to start winning home games against better teams. Otherwise this is going to be a massively forgettable season.
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Fight For Survival
Jose Mourinho might have been left baffled by defeat at Sunderland in midweek but Gus Poyet will be less confused; this is a side in survival form (eight points from eight games) whose only problem is that time could run out before the revival is complete. With two away games looming in the next week, victory in a clash with patchy Norwich City at the Stadium of Light is obligatory on Saturday afternoon.
A month ago there would be solace to be found in Manchester City's away form but now - after wins against Bayern Munich and West Brom as well as a decent point at Southampton - it is difficult to see how Fulham could possibly cope with any combination of David Silva, Jesus Navas, Sami Nasri, Yaya Toure, Alvaro Negredo and Edin Dzeko. They can kid themselves that the absence of Sergio Aguero gives them a chance but then they will remember Philippe Senderos and the sight of Scott Parker running through treacle.