There are going to be fixtures at various times that are considered (overwhelmingly by the media it has to be said) as a chance to 'lay down a marker'.
Tomorrow's visit to Anfield will no doubt be seen as such an opportunity.
Of course, the outcome of tomorrow lunchtime's game is not going to decide anything over the course of a season barely a quarter of the way in but it is a game whereby the result could have ramifications over the short-term at least.
We head into the game on the back of five consecutive draws (or unbeaten since our only defeat of the season at Old Trafford), with the first sign of questions being asked of a side that came out of the gate at a tremendous pace at the beginning of the season. A defeat would therefore likely lead to more questions and a feeling that we have to make the necessary step up, whilst victory would announce our intention as a side with genuine aspirations; something Mark Hughes is all too aware of:
"Liverpool have been at the top end of the table and in Europe for a long, long time but we have to go to places like Anfield and get results. We showed with our performance at Old Trafford that we are more than capable of going to the 'big 4' clubs and turning in good performances. We are looking to do that again and make sure we have a real go. It's important because Liverpool are one of the teams we want to overcome this year."The intrigue is heightened given Liverpool's recent troubles. On the brink of a Champions League exit, they have also stuttered badly in the league with a usually sound defence looking less than cohesive (what has happened to Jamie Carragher?). They have suffered five defeats already this season, yet they do stand only a point behind us with shows that whilst defeats are damaging, draws can so often derail ambition.
Following some of the more scurillous headlines and reports during the recent international break (do these seem to be longer and longer?) the MEN suggests that Robinho could be set for a 'shock' return. I expect Mark Hughes to switch back to a 4-4-2 line-up adopting away from home for the most part this season with Nigel de Jong regaining his place at the expense of either Gareth Barry or Stephen Ireland, with the latter the most likely to make way. This would mean Robinho on the bench, providing a fantastic option if the game is in the balance heading into the latter stages.
Much has been written of Liverpool's injury woes of late, with Fernando Torres likely absent and Alberto Aquilani not quite ready, but Steven Gerrard has pronounced himself fit.
Despite the odd result, Anfield has been a less than happy hunting ground over the years and a visit there is never usually cause for much optimism. The obvious outcome on recent form would be a draw, but I have a feeling there will be a definite result and will take us to get a come from behind 2-1 victory.