Premier League Roundup: Great escape is on for Fulham, Cardiff as basement boys win

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It ain’t over ’til it’s over… and these boys are hanging on in there.

Fulham, Cardiff City and former strugglers Crystal Palace all won on Saturday, as the Cottagers and Bluebirds have now given themselves a real chance of Premier League survival.

With four games to go it is so tight at the bottom of the PL standings, with just five points separating Cardiff in 19th and Aston Villa in 14th. Norwich, Swansea, West Brom and Aston Villa are now looking anxiously over their shoulders.

(MORE: Latest Premier League standings)

Tottenham surged back to draw 3-3 with Baggies, after being 3-0 down, while Stoke and Everton bagged yet another win as the PL’s two form sides keep rolling on. The Toffees have now moved into the fourth and final Champions League place.

In case you missed any of the pulsating action, don’t fret my friends, we have you covered. Below are recaps, analysis and video highlights of every single PL game from Saturday.

Crystal Palace 1-0 Aston Villa

The Eagles are in 12th place and almost getting a nosebleed. Jason Puncheon scored his third goal in two games, as the tricky winger slammed home with 15 minutes to go. Aston Villa are in free-fall but boss Paul Lambert still thinks there are ‘lots of games left’ to turn it around. Umm, Paul, it is mid-April. Palace are safe, Villa definitely aren’t.

Fulham 1-0 Norwich City

Hugo Rodallega was Fulham’s match-winner for the second straight weekend, as the Cottagers picked the perfect time to win back-to-back PL games for the first time since October. Norwich were pretty decent, under new boss Neil Adams, but couldn’t beat an inspired David Stockdale in goal for Fulham, as the Canaries now face Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United in their final four games. Fulham are two points behind the Canaries, with a much easier run-in. Could these two flip-flop by the end of the season?

Southampton 0-1 Cardiff City

Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s Bluebirds have put a week of turmoil behind them to give themselves a big chance of beating the drop. It was only their second away win of the season, as Juan Cala’s cool finish in the second half sunk the Saints. Cardiff’s Norwegian boss said his team will ‘won’t give up until it’s over’ and on this showing, they will take this to the final day of the season. Great spirit and grit from Cardiff, while Saints will be shaking their heads in disbelief after dominating yet another game.

Stoke City 1-0 Newcastle United

The Potters are on a roll, with five wins in their last seven games catapulting Mark Hughes’ side just three points behind Newcastle United in ninth. Erik Pieters scored the only goal of the game, as his lofted cross somehow looped in past Tim Krul to give Stoke all three points. Newcastle are unraveling at the seams, as they have now lost four-straight games without scoring. Is Alan Pardew’s time on Tyneside about to run out?

Sunderland 0-1 Everton

Everton move into fourth position after a gutsy win away at basement club Sunderland. The Black Cats acquitted themselves well throughout but just didn’t have that killer instinct around the box. The lone goal of the game was an own goal, as Wes Brown put into his own net to hand the Toffees all three points. Note for USMNT fans: Jozy Altidore didn’t make the matchday squad yet again.

West Bromwich Albion 3-3 Tottenham Hotspur

Dear oh dear, West Brom… what is going on? For the second-straight home game the Baggies let a big lead slip, as they drew 3-3 again in an awful case of Déjà vu. Leading 3-0 after 31 minutes, Pepe Mel was already spending his win bonus as goals from Matej Vydra, Chris Brunt and Stephane Sessegnon put West Brom in a commanding position. Then Spurs came roaring back, as the got a lifeline before half time with Jonas Olsson’s own goal, then Harry Kane scored another to make it 3-2 with 20 minutes to go. The Baggies nearly held on, then Christian Eriksen popped up in stoppage time to seal a remarkable comeback for Spurs.

Mourinho: Mkhitaryan “disappeared” during games, got dropped

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It would appear that Henrikh Mkhitaryan has become the new Luke Shaw, who not so long ago became the new Juan Mata, who had become the new Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos and Pepe, who all previously become the new Kaka and Mesut Ozil — players previously perceived to be undroppable, only to fall out of favor and be dropped from Mourinho’s side.

[ MORE: Carrick back in training after operation to fix irregular heartbeat ]

Similarly to many of the aforementioned stars of Manchester United, Chelsea and Real Madrid sides of the not-so-distant past, Mourinho recently singled out Mkhitaryan for not working hard enough for the team and failing to meet expectations with his performances.

Mkhitaryan last featured in Man United’s 1-0 loss to Chelsea on Nov. 5, prior to the most recent international break. He played just 62 minutes, to follow an UEFA Champions League appearance of just 45 minutes against Benfica. Mkhitaryan was then absent from the substitute’s bench for a victory over Newcastle United and a defeat to Basel.

[ MORE: Pochettino sees Sanchez as one of world’s best defenders already ]

In Mourinho’s mind, Mkhitaryan hasn’t merited a place in the team — quotes from the Guardian:

“I was not happy with his last performances. I’m not speaking about one or two, I’m speaking about three, four or five. He started the season very well and after that, step by step, he was disappearing. His performance levels in terms of goalscoring and assists, pressing, recovering the ball high up the pitch, bringing the team with him as a no. 10, were decreasing.

“That was enough [to drop him] because the others worked to have a chance. Everybody works to have a chance. It’s as simple as that.”

“I don’t know if Mkhitaryan will start but, for sure, he will be back in the group. For him to be back to the group, it means that somebody is going to leave the group.”

Davinson delights Pochettino, who predicts “massive” strides

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It’s still very early days for Davinson Sanchez as a Tottenham Hotspur player, but the early returns are extremely positive as the Colombian center back has featured in 14 of the club’s 17 games in the Premier League and UEFA Champions League this season.

[ MORE: Spurs beat Dortmund again to win group with Real Madrid ]

What’s more encouraging than Sanchez’s initial performances? The 21-year-old’s “massive” room for improvement and the expectation he’ll one day soon be one of the world’s best defenders, according to manager Mauricio Pochettino.

After signing for Spurs in August, Sanchez went straight into Pochettino’s starting lineup, slotted in between stalwarts Toby Aldeweireld and Jan Vertonghen, who together last season led the defense with the PL’s best record (26 goals conceded in 38 games), as part of a back-three. Sanchez has taken to Tottenham like a duck to water, in Pochettino’s estimation — quotes from ESPN FC:

“You saw against against Dortmund how many times he was with [Pierre-Emerick] Aubameyang one-versus-one. How many central defenders can play one-versus-one and escape and go, be tight and press? If you run, I run because I am so confident when running. I think not many center backs in the world can do this.

“Or against Swansea against Tammy Abraham: how many times he was one vs. one and the ball was behind him, he was on the halfway line and running was not a problem? And against Cristiano Ronaldo, too?”

“We expect more from him, but I am so happy with him. He is doing well, very well. He’s only 21 years old, but he shows more maturity [than that], and he’s so aggressive when he’s marking, his concentration [is good] and then with the ball he’s good, but I think he can improve.

“There is massive scope to improve potentially, it’s massive for him. In only a few months, he’s showing he’s doing a fantastic job for us. [He can improve in] every single aspect, tactic, physical condition, technique.

“We need with him one and a half months or two months preseason every day, and then I’m sure he’s going to show a different level. I think he’s one of the best today, but has potential to improve a lot more.

“Because he’s so clever, and he’s very humble, and he’s very open to learn, he’s a player when you tell something his reaction is to be open, and be critical with himself, and that is a massive skill from a player, when he’s so open to improve, and then the conditions he has are amazing to be one of the best center halves in the world.”

To state the completely obvious, Pochettino was wise to utilize Aldeweireld and Vertonghen as training wheels for Sanchez, if you will, upon his arrival. His athleticism and pace make him 1) the ideal complement to a pair of players who read the game so well; and, 2) perfectly positioned to operate as the last-man, emergency defender on the rare occasion either Belgian is breached.

[ MORE: Liverpool host Chelsea in massive top-four clash ]

For the first time all season, Sanchez started out wide in Alderweireld’s absence (hamstring) against Arsenal last weekend, and for the first time since his arrival, he appeared a flawed — which is to say, human — defender. To his credit, Sanchez gave a quality account of himself on the whole, and finished the game much stronger than he’d started.

No one was more aware of this than Pochettino, though, as he slid Eric Dier into Aldeweireld’s spot for Tuesday’s Champions League triumph over Borusia Dortmund, again deploying Sanchez in the middle. With Aldeweireld expected to miss a couple more weeks at minimum, the Tottenham teamsheet should routinely read Vertonghen-Sanchez-Dier from left to right until he returns.

Lille appoint four interim managers to replace Bielsa

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LILLE, France (AP) A four-man coaching team will take provisional charge of French soccer club Lille in the wake of Marcelo Bielsa’s dismissal.

Lille says Fernando Da Cruz, Joao Sacramento, Benoit Delaval and Franck Mantaux will be in charge of the team until further notice.

Lille announced earlier this week that Bielsa had been suspended “as part of a procedure started by the club” following a 3-0 loss at Amiens.

The northern side is in 19th place and next travels Saturday to Montpellier, which has the best defense in the league.

Bielsa joined Lille this season but failed to make the club competitive. After finishing a disappointing 11th last season, Lille hired the coach – affectionately known as El Loco Bielsa (Crazy Bielsa) – with the aim of returning to the Champions League.

Irregular heartbeat the cause of Carrick’s recent absence

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Manchester United captain Michael Carrick hasn’t played for his club since Sept. 20, a confounding period of more than two months now, and the reason for the 36-year-old midfielder’s absence has finally come to light: an irregular heartbeat.

[ MORE: Mourinho slams critics (again), gives injury updates ]

The condition, which Carrick announced himself on Friday, was first detected after Man United’s League Cup victory over Burton Albion. He has since undergone a cardiac ablation, a procedure to scar or destroy tissue in your heart that’s allowing incorrect electrical signals to cause an abnormal heart rhythm, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Carrick was named the new United captain this summer following the departure of Wayne Rooney. As told in the above statement, he is working toward full fitness and once again being available for selection in Jose Mourinho’s side.

Hooray for modern technology and medicine, which allow otherwise baffling medical conditions to be diagnosed, treated and recovered from in a matter of weeks or months.