Mohamed Salah

Premier League Roundup: Chelsea and Man City keep pressure on at the top

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On Saturday we witnessed a monumental day in the Premier League, as teams at the top bagged big wins, and sides at the bottom scrapping for their lives also secured much-needed victories.

Chelsea and Manchester City both saw off spirited Stoke and Southampton sides respectively, as they pile the pressure on Liverpool who play on Sunday. At the bottom, Fulham sealed a superb win over Aston Villa as Felix Magath’s men are now just five points from safety and have given themselves a fighting chance of staying up.

(MORE: Latest Premier League standings)

Crystal Palace hammered Cardiff 3-0 away from home, as the Bluebirds look to be doomed, while Hull beat Swansea and West Brom beat Norwich to ease both of their relegation worries.

If you missed any of the action, here are recaps, analysis and highlights of all the action. Enjoy!

Aston Villa 1-2 Fulham

The Cottagers bagged a crucial win thanks to Kieran Richardson’s belter and a strike from Hugo Rodallega, which cancelled out Grant Holt’s equalizer. Villa are now looking nervously over their shoulder, as Fulham are sparking an unlikely survival bid. They can’t do it… can they? What a great escape this would be by the West Londoners, who thoroughly deserved three points from this match.

Cardiff 0-3 Crystal Palace

Ole Gunnar Solksjaer has all but given up, as the Bluebirds “need a miracle” to stay up this season. Palace were simply superb away from home, as a double from Jason Puncheon was added to by Cardiff product Joe Ledley who failed to celebrate his goal out of respect for his hometown club. The Eagles are now soaring away from the bottom three, while Cardiff are second from bottom with five games to go.

Chelsea 3-0 Stoke City

Jose Mourinho’s side bounced back from two-straight defeats to hammer Stoke at Stamford Bridge. Mohamed Salah’s first half goal was added to by Frank Lampard and the hugely impressive Willian in the second half. Stoke were outclassed after they went behind in the 30th minute, and Chelsea never looked back as they prepare to face Paris Saint-Germain in style.

Hull City 1-0 Swansea City

The Tigers are almost safe after a crucial three points at the KC Stadium. Hull needed this win, big time, and it came courtesy of George Boyd’s header just before half time. Swansea looked nervous and snatched at several chances in the second half as they aimed to equalize, now Garry Monk’s men are just six-points above the bottom three and will endure a nervous end to the season.

Manchester City 4-1 Southampton

Don’t be fooled by the scoreline, City were second best for most of the opening half but somehow led 3-1 at the break. An early penalty from Yaya Toure set the favorites for the PL title on their way, but then Rickie Lambert scored from that spot to deservedly put Saints level. However a real moment of controversy arrived in first half stoppage time, as David Silva teed up Samir Nasri to put City 2-1 up, but Silva was stood five yards offside. Saints manager Mauricio Pochettino was incensed, but another goal from Edin Dzeko before the break and a late Stevan Jovetic strike sealed the win. Bad news for Saints and England, Jay Rodriguez suffered a nasty looking knee injury and could miss the World Cup.

Newcastle 0-4 Manchester United

Juan Mata is clicking into ominous form for Man United, as the diminutive Spaniard curled in a free kick then slotted in a second, before setting up Adnan Januzaj to score with his wonderful back-heel late on. Javier Hernandez netted United’s other goal, as Newcastle were woeful and David Moyes hailed his squad players who stepped in and delivered. Next up: Bayern Munich away in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinal.

Norwich City 0-1 West Bromwich Albion

Morgan Amalfitano scored the game’s only goal, as the Baggies celebrated just their second win under Pepe Mel. It was a tight and tense affair at Carrow Road, as Norwich now sit just one place above the drop zone after losing this crucial relegation six-pointer. Massive win for West Brom, but are the Canaries in danger of being relegated?

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.

[ MORE: Prince-Wright’s Premier League Picks for Week 26 ]

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.

Messi named La Liga Player of the Month for first time in career

BARCELONA, SPAIN - JANUARY 06:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the Copa del Rey Round of 16 first leg match between FC Barcelona and RCD Espanyol at Camp Nou on January 6, 2016 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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Lionel Messi has won every individual award imaginable, but now he can add another trophy to his shelf.

For the first time in his career, Messi was named La Liga’s Player of the Month for January.

[ MORE: PL Power Rankings, Vol. VIII ]

It’s hard to believe, but somehow the Barcelona superstar had never won this honor before. Despite winning a record five Ballon D’or trophies as the best player in the world, this trophy had eluded Messi since its inception in 2013.

Messi scored six goals in six January matches as Barcelona sit atop the La Liga table, currently holding a three-point lead over Atletico Madrid.

Despite their dominance in La Liga, this is only the second time a Barcelona player has won this monthly award, as Neymar took home the honor in November of 2015.

USWNT-Mexico preview: Energized Yanks look to keep rolling toward Rio

FRISCO, TX - FEBRUARY 10:  Team USA poses for a photo before play against Costa Rica during 2016 CONCACAF Women's Olympic Qualifying at Toyota Stadium on February 10, 2016 in Frisco, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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The United States women’s national team looks to keep rolling through CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying with a match with Mexico on Saturday.

Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, is again the scene after the Yanks battered Costa Rica 5-0 on Wednesday.

[ MUST WATCH: Christen Press’ dazzling first touch, spin, goal ]

A win over Mexico would move the USWNT into the all-important semifinal, where a win would gain them entry into this Summer’s Olympic Games.

Mexico staged a blowout of its own on Wednesday, cruising past Puerto Rico 6-0 thanks in large part to a hat trick from Maribel Dominguez.

[ VIDEO: Alex Morgan caps off a 12-second, six-pass goal ]

Mexico has only beaten the USWNT twice in history, and only the 2010 Gold Cup semifinal is considered official.

In recent history, the USWNT beat up Mexico 5-1 last year, and thrice in 2014 by a combined score of 15-0. Expect very little to change with an energized, impressive U.S. side on Saturday.

[ SATURDAY: Watch USWNT vs Mexico live online on NBC Sports Live Extra ]