Jay Rodriguez scores Southampton's third goal against Norwich City

Southampton 4-2 Norwich City: Saints arrest Canary comeback (video)

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This match almost had it all: a battle against relegation, a triple substitution, plenty of goals, and almost, almost a fairy-tale comeback from the underdogs. But in the end the hosts took all three points, leaving Norwich just four points above the drop.

Right from the start Southampton were on top, with James Ward-Prowse very nearly opening the scoring after just two minutes. His header went wide, but it mattered little, as Saints were in front by the fifth minute.

The Norwich defense were cut apart, with neither of the Canaries’ defensive midfielders picking up on the run of Gastón Ramírez. Jay Rodriguez laid off the ball for Morgan Schneiderlin, whose neatly clipped shot sailed over John Ruddy to land in the back of the net.

The hosts weren’t about to slow down, however, continuing to pile pressure on Norwich. Ramírez put in a lovely ball that Rodriguez just missed. Steven Davis was able to latch on, but his shot went just wide. Moments later, Ramírez was having a go himself, from 20 yards, but his curling shot went wide as well. It’s tough to believe he hadn’t started since the first day of 2014.

After about the half-hour mark, Norwich started to ease their way into the game. The visitors’ first chance came when Robert Snodgrass played in Gary Hooper, but the front man’s shot went wide. Anthony Pilkington put in a decent sharp drive, but it was blocked before threatening Artur Boruc’s goal.

It was Southampton that came back roaring after the restart, however. José Fonte slid a long ball through to Ramírez, but Ryan Bennett got in the way. The Norwich defender flicked on to Rickie Lambert, who’d been on for just a minute. The forward slipped past Jos Hooiveld to double his side’s lead.

It was then that Chris Hughton decided to make a change…or three. Off came Pilkington, Hooper and Bradley Johnson; on came Nathan Redmond, Johan Elmander and Ricky van Wolfswinkel.

Jay Rodriguez put in Southampton’s third goal. John Ruddy had managed to save Guly Do Prado’s original shot, but the rebound fell to Rodriguez, who had no trouble putting it away. 3-0, and it looked as though the Saints were coasting to victory.

Hughton’s triple substitution, however, proved to be quite effective. Fonte made a hash of a pass to Boruc, which Elmander was able to intercept, slotting past the goalkeeper. Then, less than two minutes later, van Wolfswinkel’s shot was deflected into the path of Snodgrass, and the Canaries were within a goal of snatching a point.

Alas, the fairy-tale comeback fell short. Instead it was Southampton that grabbed the final goal, almost with the last move of the match. Alexander Tettey’s slip allowed Sam Gallagher – again, on just minutes before – the chance to latch on to a through ball and put in the Saints fourth and final goal.

Southampton: Boruc, Clyne, Fonte, Lovren, Shaw, Schneiderlin, S. Davis, Ward-Prowse, Lallana (Lambert 55), Ramírez (Guly 61), Rodriguez (Gallagher 93)

Goals: Schneiderlin 5′, Lambert 57′, Rodriguez 72, Gallagher 97′

Norwich City: Ruddy; Whittaker, Yobo, R Bennett, Olsson; Tettey, Johnson (van Wolfswinkel 65), Howson; Snodgrass, Pilkington (Redmond 65), Hooper (Elmander 65)

Goals: Elmander 85′, Snodgrass 86′,

Pochettino enjoying best spell of career ahead of massive clash at Man City

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 23:  Mauricio Pochettino (R) Manager of Tottenham Hotspur is seen on arrival at the stadium prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Tottenham Hotspur at Selhurst Park on January 23, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
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Mauricio Pochettino is getting ready for one of his biggest matches in charge at Tottenham, but he’s not letting the pressure get to him.

The Spurs’ boss talked down the importance of Sunday’s match against Manchester City (Watch live, 11:15 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra), and went on to say he is currently having the most enjoyable time of his career.

[ WATCH: Full PL match replays ]

Pochettino has Tottenham sitting second on the table, and they travel to the Etihad this weekend for a clash against fourth-placed Manchester City, who sit one point behind Spurs.

When asked if this weekend’s match could be a decisive result in the title race, Pochettino was unwilling to admit it was anything more than three points in a long campaign. However, when asked about the season as a whole, the Argentinian manager said he was having great fun at White Hart Lane, responding “Is it my most enjoyable time of career? Yes, maybe yes if I’m honest.”

[ MORE: Who are the Premier League title favorites? ]

Pochettino’s work at Tottenham has made him one of the most well-respected managers in the Premier League, with some reports tabbing him as the potential future boss of Manchester United.

Spurs have won six on the spin in all competitions, and will be confident facing a City side they smashed 4-1 earlier this season. With leaders Leicester facing Arsenal on Sunday, Tottenham could see themselves just two points off the pace if results go their way.

Chicharito sidelined two weeks with muscle injury

ROME, ITALY - NOVEMBER 04:  Javier Hernandez of Bayer 04 Leverkusen celebrates after scoring the team's second goal during the UEFA Champions League Group E match between AS Roma and Bayer 04 Leverkusen at Olimpico Stadium on November 4, 2015 in Rome, Italy.  (Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images)
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Bayer Leverkusen must move forward without their top talisman as Javier Hernandez is out with a muscle injury.

The Mexican international was forced off in the second half of Leverkusen’s midweek loss to Werder Bremen in the German Cup.

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Hernandez scored in that Werder Bremen match before getting injured, as the striker has now scored a remarkable 20 goals in his last 18 appearances for Leverkusen.

With a torn muscle fiber in his left glute, Leverkusen boss Rogers Schmidt announced Chicharito could be out for two or even three weeks.

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Including this weekend’s match at Darmstadt, Hernandez will likely miss both matches against Sporting Lisbon in the Europa League as well as a huge Bundesliga clash with Borussia Dortmund.

Premier League Preview: Sunderland vs. Manchester United

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  • United 6 points outside the top four
  • Sunderland winless in four
  • MUFC has one loss in 27 vs. SAFC (W20, D6, L1)

Manchester United’s uphill battle for a top-four finish continues on Saturday when the Red Devils travel to the Stadium of Light to face Sunderland (Watch live, 7:45 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra).

United won this fixture in September 3-0 behind goals from Memphis, Wayne Rooney, and Juan Mata.

[ WATCH LIVE: Stream every PL game via Live Extra ]

Sunderland sit 19th on the table four points from safety as the time has come for Sam Allardyce‘s side to start getting results. Without a win in their last four matches, the Black Cats must turn things around if they want to stay up in the Premier League. Jermain Defoe scored last time out in a draw at Liverpool, and he’ll once again be tasked with finding the back of the net if Sunderland are to win.

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For Manchester United, the pressure is still on Louis Van Gaal as rumors and reports circle linking Jose Mourinho to the job. Fifth on the table and six points behind Manchester City, a top-four finish is slipping away from United if they don’t rattle off a few wins. A late goal at Chelsea last weekend cost the Red Devils all three points, but they’ll look at this matchup against Sunderland as a good opportunity to get a positive result.

What they’re saying

Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce: “Providing chances for Jermain Defoe is critical for us. But our first major problem is that we haven’t kept a clean sheet in nine matches. We need to start putting a zero against us in games and if we start doing that we’ll win more matches. If we win more matches, we’ll get out of trouble.”

United manager Louis van Gaal: “We had lost four matches in a row in December and you see us now. You can only say that we are mentally very strong and that we can cope with the pressure. That is not enough as we have to improve our results and consistency to win a lot of matches in a row. We have to minimize the gap to our competitors.”

Prediction

Sunderland need all the points they can get to try and stay up, but United always seem to cause the Black Cats problems. Jermain Defoe is kept off the board as Louis van Gaal takes the win. Sunderland 0-2 Manchester United.

Costa breaks nose, will be fit to play for “Zorro team” vs. Newcastle

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 07:  Diego Costa of Chelsea reacts during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on February 7, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
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Chelsea striker Diego Costa broke his nose in training after a clash of heads, but should be fit to play in Saturday’s match against Newcastle (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra).

Costa has six goals in his past seven Premier League games as Chelsea are unbeaten in their last 11 in all competitions.

[ MORE: Top 5 PL storylines ]

Manager Guus Hiddink spoke about the injury in his press conference on Friday, saying Costa collided with an Academy player in training. Hiddink said he believes Costa will be ready to play this weekend for his “Zorro team” as Costa joins Gary Cahill, Nemanja Matic, and Cesar Azpilicueta as Chelsea players to wear a mask this season.

It was not a tough duel but he put his nose on the back of the head of one of the youngsters from the Academy that we like to participate in our training games. He was very unlucky.

They are putting a mask on Diego as well, we are the team with a lot of masks, a Zorro team, and he will come back do some light training this afternoon as he must experience how he is dealing with the form and the fitting of the mask.

Costa scored a stoppage-time equalizer against Manchester United last weekend as Chelsea continue to get results under Guus Hiddink. The Blues are up to 13th on the table, just three points outside the top half.

[ RELATED: Frank Lampard urges Chelsea to sign John Terry ]

Chelsea will look to extend their unbeaten run to 12 matches on Saturday against a Newcastle side that is just one point above the drop and in need of a result.