SUNDAY evening will see the nation vote on whether Christopher Maloney is crowned winner of the X Factor.
A few hours earlier, however, will come a similarly daunting audition for others hopeful of representing Liverpool in the big time.
Of course, there’ll be no Louis Walsh at Upton Park. There won’t even be Luis Suarez.
The sole judge instead will be Brendan Rodgers as the honeymoon period for both the manager and his mixture of new signings and fledgling youngsters makes way for the cold shower of harsh reality.
The December and New Year period, so often crucial in shaping the remainder of a club’s season, begins in earnest for Liverpool this week, first with Thursday’s Europa League decider at Udinese and then, three days later, the capital trip to face a buoyant West Ham United.
Sunday’s match is the first of six Premier League games in 25 days that could see Rodgers’ men either make significant advances up a congested top-flight table or sink further into mid-table mediocrity.
The Anield manager has urged his players to give themselves a fighting chance of Champions League qualification by the time the transfer window, and the expected cavalry, arrives in January.
And for some, the knowledge that reinforcements may soon be on the horizon means the next month may represent a final chance to prove they are worthy of a place in Rodgers’ long-term plans.
“This is a busy time of the season and, with the packed Christmas schedule ahead, it’s going to stay that way,” says skipper Steven Gerrard.
“The manager has already used the whole squad very well and he’ll have to keep doing so. It means everyone will get a chance and when it arrives they have to take it.
“Jose Enrique is a prime example. He’s returned to the side in recent weeks and done well. Brad Jones was excellent during Pepe’s absence and Jordan Henderson came off the bench against Wigan to help us to victory. We need each player to make a contribution.”
With Rodgers needing to carefully manage young trio Raheem Sterling, Suso and Andre Wisdom through the hectic festive schedule, more will be expected of others in the squad, most notably newcomers Joe Allen and Nuri Sahin.
Both have struggled for form lately after impressive starts to their Anfield careers, the latter having not started the last four Premier League games.
Rodgers, keen to bolster confidence, has praised both midfielders during recent weeks, although Sahin admits the experience of dealing with a robust Stoke City side and then being thrown into the helter-skelter of a Merseyside derby was something of an eye-opener.
“I have never played in games such as the ones against Stoke and Everton before,” says the Turkey international.
“Each team has their own style and these are all things that are new to me.
“I think the thing about the league here in England is every team is capable of beating everyone else.
“That is probably the thing that has surprised me most but that also makes me happy because it’s a very tough league and every team has their own story.”
Sahin, whether it be on the pitch or sat on the bench, will tick off another first when Liverpool encounter a contrast in style at West Ham, a team fashioned in the traditional Sam Allardyce mould.
Clearly, the Real Madrid loanee’s elegant football would be lost in the Hammers’ long-ball game, and Sahin admits it was the chance to help Rodgers impose a passing philosophy that swayed him to move to Anfield.
“I came here because the manager told me how he wanted to play and it’s important for a player to have that knowledge,” he says. “You have to make the right choice because I’m not the kind of player who can play in a long-ball side but the way that Brendan wants to play is one that I’m comfortable with.
“It’s key that we really play well as a team and have something special that other teams don’t have. The spirit and the game that we play must be our game. We want people to watch us and say ‘Oh, it is Liverpool, they are playing their way’. I am trying to help us do that.”
Sahin is no stranger to playing in a team laden with youngsters having been a teenage sensation himself earlier in his career.
The midfielder remains the youngest man to play and score for Turkey and also became the youngest player in the Bundesliga when making his debut for Borussia Dortmund aged 16 years 334 days.
And he adds: “I had this in Dortmund because when we came out of the youth team we were at the same age as many of the guys here now.
“They are doing very well. I like the way Andre has been working and playing and Raheem and Suso have also done very well.
“That’s the thing – if you get a chance at this age, this is a big opportunity for you and if you take it, you are in and if you don’t take it, you are out.
“It was the same when I started with Dortmund at 16. The young guys are an important part of the team and the future of the club.”
While Liverpool’s unfortunate defeat at Tottenham Hotspur last week is their only reverse in 10 Premier League games, Saturday’s win over Southampton was just a fourth top-flight triumph of the season.
Seven of their 15 league games have been drawn and Sahin admits progress will continue to be gradual.
“It’s step by step,” he says. “Of course we know that we have to get points but if you can’t win you should make sure that you don’t lose.
“But we are aware that we need to pick up more points if we’re to achieve our goals. It’s important to go game by game, see if we can get our points and then keep taking small steps. It will be hard work but we have enough quality in the squad to push higher up the table.”