Is another Carlos Tevez sulk on the way?

The Argentinian has already demonstrated occasional reluctance to gad about in a high-vis bib since joining Manchester City, famously declining to warm up when instructed to do so by Roberto Mancini during last season's Champions League. It will be intriguing to see his on-field reaction to the news that he'll have to do it for a whopping 250 hours as punishment for repeated motoring offences. His sentence is just shy of 36 seven-hour working days and he is unlikely to have put much of a dent in it come season's end. Despite being spared jail, he wouldn't be human if he didn't feel hard done by, so it will be intriguing to find out if another epic sulk ensues. Barry Glendenning

Adkins v Pochettino

Will Nigel Adkins and Mauricio Pochettino shake hands? Will they? Forget the relegation battle, this will surely be the most fascinating subplot when Reading welcome Southampton to the Madejski Stadium and one that deserves full media coverage and then we can all get on with the irritating and irrelevant sideshow that is the football. With home wins over Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City under his belt, Pochettino certainly appears to have settled well despite the curious chain of events which saw Southampton replace Adkins with the former Espanyol manager in January. Southampton are surely safe now, although they are still waiting for their first away win under Pochettino after four unsuccessful attempts. They're unlikely to get a better opportunity than against Reading, who are spirited but limited and on their way down. Replacing Brian McDermott with Adkins, an apparent like-for-like swap, was a pointless move but at least it's added a bit of extra spice to this fixture. Jacob Steinberg

Di Canio: now for the football

Quite apart from seeing if any Sunderland supporters are dumb enough to greet Paolo Di Canio with a fascist salute, a plan mooted by one trolling numpty on a Mackem fan forum, it will be genuinely intriguing to see what kind of team the Italian sends out at the end of an eventful week in which his surprise appointment caused enough of a sporting stir to prompt even proper journalists to muddy their spats in the murky Premier League puddle. Decent Sunderland performances have been few and far between this season but one of their better ones came in the corresponding fixture against Chelsea at the Stadium of Light, where the hulking enigma that is Connor Wickham had one of the games of his career but silly individual errors from Seb Larsson and Phil Bardsley cost them dearly. Considering both his political leanings and the fact that the stunningly mediocre crossing side he's inherited seems too slow, ponderous and unimaginative to play any other way, Di Canio will almost certainly focus on the right wing, where Di Canio's predecessor, Martin O'Neill, seemed incapable of deciding whether Adam Johnson or Stéphane Sessègnon was his go-to guy.

The out-of-sorts Johnson had the gig originally, with the similarly underperforming Sessègnon operating in the hole behind an out-and-out striker, before O'Neill moved Sessègnon wide for a run of seven games that gleaned one win. Helping these players – one or both – rediscover their mojo will be crucial if Di Canio is to keep Sunderland in the Premier League. With a rejuvenated Johnson on the right and James McClean on the left providing ammo for Danny Graham or Wickham and Sessègnon, it's not inconceivable that Sunderland could begin to resemble the vaguely functional and entertaining football team that marked the early days of O'Neill's tenure. In the event of such a turnaround, it is a shame the members of the Durham Miners' Association will not be able to revel in the success. BG

Tottenham must cope with the fatigue this time

Sometimes it is possible to get too carried away when a big team loses a couple of matches. After all, someone has to lose. Football teams will lose football matches. However, if Tottenham could point to bad luck when they were beaten by Liverpool, then the defeat by Fulham at White Hart Lane was infinitely more worrying. Suddenly talk of a typical Tottenham collapse began and André Villas-Boas was having to bat away questions about whether they were feeling the pressure. It didn't matter what Villas-Boas had to say, though; winning at Swansea was the perfect riposte. However, Tottenham's task is about to get more difficult. Gareth Bale's injury against Basel is a worry, especially as Everton are awkward enough opponents at the best of times and even more so three days after a Europa League quarter-final. Villas-Boas intends to win the Europa League and finish in the top four – and quite right, too – so there are likely to be some heavy legs in the Tottenham side. They must ignore the pain and hope that Bale can do the same. JS

Arsenal can turn up the heat

There's no point grumbling now about whether Arsène Wenger has got his priorities right. Yes, it's another trophyless season but for Arsenal the immediate future is all about securing their place in the top four and, if they win at West Bromwich Albion on Saturday afternoon, they will move a point above Chelsea, who do not play until Sunday. It is easy to scoff about Wenger's repeated claims about his team's mental strength but maybe they do have a bit more about them than they are given credit for. Although they are capable of getting themselves into a rare old stink, it has never been beyond them to hit form at just the right time. With no cup competitions to worry about and a relatively favourable run-in, talk of a crisis may have to be put on hold again. Try to ignore the sense of déjà-vu, though. JS

Harry knows what a miracle is … whatever

Having helpfully provided the distinction between a miracle and steering this QPR side to victory in four matches out of their next seven by pointing out that "miracles are if you're a cripple and I touch you and cure you; that's a miracle … or if I turn a loaf of bread into whatever", Harry Redknapp must continue with his ongoing attempts to turn his overpaid, under-performing rabble into "whatever" for a match that is must-win for his team but where a point will do in-form Wigan Athletic quite nicely. The Latics are decent when it comes to protecting a lead and, with the hard-working Ivorian striker Arouna Koné having scored in their past two games, the first goal in this contest could be crucial. A reprise of the slapstick defending that cost QPR all three points against Fulham on Monday night could force Harry down the supermarket aisle to fondle sliced-pans, in the hope he can transform them into much needed Premier League points. BG

Norwich hope Swansea will be on their sun loungers

Norwich will not get any easier chances to secure three points in their bid for Premier League safety than this. Actually, scrap that. They have Reading at home in two games' time. The players of Swansea City, having guaranteed their own Premier League status for next season and won the League Cup at Wembley, appear to have downed tools and flaked out on their metaphorical sun loungers, which ought to be a heartwarming state of affairs for hosts who have won only one of the 14 Premier League matches they have played in 2013, scoring a paltry five goals in the process.

"All the players have to look in the mirror and be honest with themselves, and ask, 'Have I really done everything I can to make this season end well'?" said the Swansea City goalkeeper Michel Vorm this week, before absolving himself from any blame for the entirely understandable fug of lethargy hanging over the Liberty Stadium. But then, when Vorm looks in the mirror, he doesn't just see a strapping and handsome Dutchman, but also a player who didn't play a single minute of his side's heroic Capital One Cup odyssey. Norwich City fans will be hoping Vorm's team-mates who did play at Wembley will greet his clarion call with nothing more energetic than rolled eyes, weary sighs and shoulder-shrugs. BG

The hubris of Pardew

Alan Pardew is a naturally confident man. That was the beard of a confident man and here's what he had to say about Newcastle's battle against relegation after his side's win over Stoke on 10 March. "That's done, we won't worry about that now," he said, swinging his feet on the table and eyeballing fate. And, sure enough, two defeats later and Newcastle find themselves three points above the bottom three. It's a good job Pardew's not worried. Anyone else would be. He'd better hope they beat Fulham. JS

A last chance for Cole?

After two excellent goals against West Brom last week, Andy Carroll will have to sit out West Ham's trip to Liverpool under the terms of his loan move. That means Sam Allardyce will have to turn to one of his back-up strikers, with Carlton Cole presumably the favourite to get the nod ahead of Marouane Chamakh, the on-loan Arsenal striker who has managed two starts, one substitute appearance and no goals during his brief spell at Upton Park. You can bet he'll be welcomed back with open arms by Arsenal in May. For Cole, though, Sunday's game might represent a last chance for him to impress Allardyce. Whenever Carroll has been fit he has been preferred to Cole, who has scored twice this season and the 29-year-old's contract is up in the summer. JS

Pulis addresses mutiny at Britannia

With large swaths of the Britannia faithful having turned on Tony Pulis, the manager has felt compelled to address the mutiny. "What they think of me doesn't matter now; it's what they think of their team that counts," he said, although it is difficult to imagine that being subjected to abuse in the Premier League's loudest bear-pit is not hurtful for the man who did so much to establish the Potters as a Premier League force. Playing unattractive football is all well and good if the results are satisfactory, but playing in a style many consider Neanderthal and failing to score in five out of seven Premier League matches is bound to provoke unrest among the ticket-buying natives.

Villa are desperate for points and have a difficult run-in, so will fancy their chances of getting all three against a jittery Stoke side but, as Michael Cox from Zonal Marking pointed out in the Football Weekly … Extra podcast, they remain rubbish at defending the Stoke speciality of set pieces. His suggestion of Robert Huth to score first, likely to be priced at around 20-1, could represent better value than any number of nags running in the Grand National at the same time. BG