1) Will United make themselves a little luck?
"These are gloomy, ill-humoured days at Old Trafford," began the Guardian's report of Newcastle United's last win at Manchester United. That copy was filed in February 1972, and it might make a fine cut-and-paste introduction for December 2013's dispatch should Newcastle put an end to their dismal run at United's famous old stadium. The home side are not having much luck at the moment – the woodwork has been regularly getting in the way – but as their fans rightly pointed out during Alex Ferguson's 20-year Premier League pomp when opposition supporters whined about United's surfeit of late goals, penalty decisions and assorted other rubs of the green, you make your own. United simply haven't been piling on the pressure in their trademark style, and therefore the well of good fortune is running dry. Neither have they been snapping up the chances when they do come along. David Moyes needs to ensure his team ups the tempo, especially during the latter stages of matches when United are sitting back, their limited ambition making them uncharacteristically vulnerable to the sucker punch. Meanwhile with Wayne Rooney suspended and Robin van Persie likely to still be out injured, the misfiring Danny Welbeck needs to step up to the plate. Because if United fail again, there's another snatch of that 1972 match report which may come in handy this weekend: "We've had it in the league," sighs a supporter, "we'll have to concentrate on the cup." SM
• United may go back in for Athletic Bilbao's Herrera
• Moyes says United have no room for error in title push
• Jamie Jackson: five things Moyes needs to address
2) Will the Toon end a 41-year hoodoo?
As for Newcastle? They were well beaten at Swansea on Wednesday night, by a team who had only won once in their last 11 matches at home and didn't even play a striker either. But they will point to being on the wrong end of a crucial penalty decision, and in any case they'd won their previous four games. Still one of the form teams, with recent victories over title hopefuls Chelsea and Tottenham under their belt, they're in the hunt for a European place, have winnable games against Southampton, Crystal Palace and Stoke coming up, and therefore go to Old Trafford feeling little in the way of pressure. They will also be buoyed by last season's match, when they came agonisingly close to ending their four-decade drought on Boxing Day, going ahead three times before falling in the last minute to a Javier Hernández sickener. If Everton can break a 21-year hoodoo, anything's possible, though much may depend on the fitness or otherwise of Hatem Ben Arfa. SM
3) Will the Hammers end a 49-year hoodoo?
West Ham United's record at Anfield makes Newcastle's Old Trafford run look like a mere blip: they haven't won there since 1964, a wait which stretches nine months short of the half-century. The Hammers, without any warning klaxons going off in the media, have slowly been slipping down the table. Their only league win in the last two months came against Fulham, a result which embarrassed the Cottagers into getting shot of their manager. They're hovering over the relegation places having recently lost dismally at Norwich and Crystal Palace. Only Chris Hughton is stopping Sam Allardyce from being the bookies' favourite in the sack race. Something's got to give at some point, you'd have thought – yes, folks, they really should be too good to go down – though whether this weekend is turnabout time is a moot point. West Ham do have that stunning 3-0 win at Spurs under their belt, but Liverpool have been rolling over the division's weaker teams at home, and Luis Suárez is ... well, Luis Suárez is. The visitors' slim hope of victory rests on a creaking Liverpool central defence which will be permed from the underperforming Agger-Skrtel-Touré-Sakho quartet, though Allardyce's whatever-whatever-zero formation is unlikely to apply too much pressure. West Ham do have one of the best defences in the league, mind, so a second 0-0 in a row at Anfield might be their likeliest hope of taking something away, especially if Liverpool suffer another Hull-style misfire in midfield. SM
4) Arsenal and Everton look to put down markers
Seeing we're hammering the subject of dismal runs, Everton have only won once at Arsenal since they recorded a victory at the tail end of their last championship season, 1986-87. That victory came when Andrei Kanchelskis scored late on at Highbury in 1996. It's been the best part of two decades since the blue half of Merseyside travelled back from the red half of north London in celebratory mood. But after Old Trafford, now would appear as good a time as any to break that particular sequence. Arsenal beat Hull at a canter in midweek, easing up with one eye on a hectic schedule which sees them take on Everton, Napoli and then Manchester City in quick succession. With progress to the Champions League knockout phase not quite yet guaranteed, Arsenal may be forgiven for taking their eye off the ball for the odd minute or two this weekend, which might give Roberto Martínez's side a glimmer of hope. This weekend may tell us a little about Everton's chances of European football next season; this week may tell us a lot about Arsenal's chances of silverware this time round. SM
5) Pozuelo: player!
Swansea remain peerless when it comes to bargain-hunting in Spain. Michu may be missing but in his absence Alejandro Pozuelo has emerged as a beautiful creator. On his fourth successive Premier League start the 22-year-old exuded class and cunning against Newcastle, finding and exploiting space with exquisite precision and complementing the more barnstorming approach of Jonjo Shelvey. Michael Laudrup has compared Pozuelo to Philippe Coutinho and evidence so far suggests that is fair – but the £500,000 that Swansea paid Real Betis for him in the summer looks like brazen theft. PD
6) Leniency. Lots of leniency
Following Wes Brown's ridiculously harsh dismissal in a match against Stoke two weeks ago, Premier League referees have seemed curiously reluctant to brandish their red cards. In the 24 top flight matches to have been played since match official Kevin Friend was criticised and ridiculed in the immediate aftermath of 10-man Sunderland's defeat at the Britannia Stadium, not a single player has been sent off – a remarkable statistic, surely?
It's a state of affairs which may be entirely coincidental, although the evidence of the midweek round of fixtures suggests referees might well - either subconsciously or acting under instruction - be thinking twice before issuing the ultimate sanction.
And it's not as if player behaviour has suddenly improved markedly. Even the most blinkered supporter would have to concede that Stoke's Charlie Adam, Manchester United's Marouane Fellaini, Swansea's Jonjo Shelvey and West Ham's Ravel Morrison were all lucky to stay on the pitch in their respective matches this week. If nothing else, these are worrying times for players hoping to pick up a Christmas suspension so they can kick back and enjoy the festive holidays like us normal folk. BG
7) The Tottenham Hotspur Fun Police
With Tottenham Hotspur having cravenly acceded to the wishes of their local council's Fun Police by resisting the efforts of some of their younger, more dedicated fans to enjoy themselves at football matches, it will be interesting to see how, or indeed if, they monitor any members of the 1882 Movement who have purchased seats in the away end at Sunderland's Stadium of Light this weekend. "We simply want to make noise and get behind the team, which hopefully creates a more enjoyable match-day experience," announces The 1882 website, in a statement clearly not written with the increasingly joyless and largely fun-free modern Premier League match-day experience in mind. This is the kind of youthful exuberance that needs to be stamped out sooner rather than later. Down with this sort of thing. Careful now. BG
8) Dimitar Berbatov's next performance
These are troubling times for Fulham's striker, who apparently wishes to leave Craven Cottage in January. He is quite obviously far too louche to engage in anything so vulgar as a relegation scrap when he could be contemplatively smoking a Gauloises and pondering the philosophical and metaphysical ideas raised in On The Island Of The Blissful, written by his compatriot Pencho Slaveykov. Yes, that much me know. But if the 32-year-old Bulgarian is to secure as lucrative a final contract as he might like, he really needs to put himself in the shop window by significantly adding to his tally of one Premier League goal this season before the transfer window opens in January. But then, doing so will of course involve the kind of effort for which the name Dimitar Berbatov is anything but a byword. To try, or not to try? That is the question. One can't help but feel the sheer mental torment of such a philosophical connundrum would kill lesser men than Dimi, who will inevitably rise above it. BG
9) Is the end finally nigh for Chris Hughton?
In the wake of his team's latest shellacking at the feet of Luis Suárez, what is otherwise a bit of a shoulder-shrug of a fixture as far as neutrals are concerned has probably taken on added significance for Chris Hughton. The poor sod is so nice that the many harbingers constantly (and thus far incorrectly) predicting that he'll be the next Premier League manager to get the sack invariably preface their prophecies of doom by pointing out what a top bloke he is, and they're not wrong. But with fan dissatisfaction growing at Carrow Road, it's difficult to escape the notion that his team have been doing litte more than the bare minimum to keep him in gainful employment up to this point. The bookies have reinstalled him as the new favourite in the Premier League sack race and if we could find footage of him cackling fiendishly while drowning a big bag of Labrador puppies, we wouldn't feel so bad about predicting that defeat in this match will finally mark the end of his stint at Carrow Road. BG
10) Stoke are going to lose and there is nothing Mark Hughes can do about it
Two Premier League teams and nary a striker between them. But at least Chelsea have a plethora of incisive midfield connivers, unlike Stoke, for whom Marko Arnautovic and Oussama Assaidi have yet to show that they are really better than the existing, barely-adequate attacking options. Asmir Begovic will need to have a blinder or Stoke are going to be battered. Petr Cech should be given the day off. PD