Chelsea returned to the top of the Premier League with a 3-0 win at home to Stoke on Saturday in a timely boost ahead of their do-or-die Champions League clash with Paris Saint-Germain.
Jose Mourinho’s side bounced back from their 3-1 midweek quarter-final first leg loss in Paris to move a point ahead of Liverpool, who will regain top spot if they avoid defeat away to West Ham on Sunday.
“I think the players played well,” Mourinho told Sky Sports. “Normally after a defeat you don’t start confidently but this team today went upwards all the time. After the second goal the game was over.”
Egypt winger Mohamed Salah marked his first Premier League start by giving Chelsea, who welcome PSG on Tuesday, a 32nd minute lead at Stamford Bridge when he turned in Nemanja Matic’s cut-back.
Salah then won a penalty after Andy Wilkinson’s poor challenge and although Frank Lampard’s 61st minute spot-kick was saved by Asmir Begovic, the veteran England midfielder followed up to make it 2-0.
Willian added a third goal with a curling shot in the 72nd minute.
Manchester City maintained their title challenge with a 4-1 win at home to Southampton that left them two points off the summit and still with two games in hand over both Chelsea and Liverpool at the end of this weekend.
Everton and Arsenal, fifth and fourth respectively, clash at Goodison Park on Sunday.
At Eastlands, Manchester City’s Yaya Toure and Saints’ Rickie Lambert both struck from the penalty spot before Samir Nasri and Edin Dzeko scored in first-half stoppage-time to make it 3-1 to Manuel Pellegrini’s men.
However, controversy surrounded Nasri’s goal with David Silva, who played in the France midfielder, offside when he received the ball.
City substitute Stevan Jovetic added a fourth goal in the 81st minute.
“I haven’t seen it (City’s second goal) yet but it is the referee (Chris Foy) who decides,” said Pellegrini.
“I don’t think the difference between the two sides was just one goal.”
Defeat was made worse for the Saints when Jay Rodriguez, one of their England strikers, was carried off on a stretcher after suffering a first-half knee injury that put a huge question mark against his chances of being selected in Roy Hodgson’s squad for this June’s World Cup finals in Brazil.
“I don’t know how Jay Rodriguez is. It’s not looking good,” said Southampton boss Mauricio Pochettino, who was furious at the decision to let Nasri’s goal stand.
“This action from the linesman for the second goal killed the game,” he added.
ManchJuan Mata scored twice as Manchester United moved above Tottenham, who face Sunderland on Monday, and into sixth place with a 4-0 win away to Newcastle.
Following their impressive 1-1 Champions League draw at home to title-holders Bayern Munich, David Moyes’s side took the lead at St James’ Park courtesy of Mata’s curling 39th minute free-kick.
The Spain midfielder doubled United’s advantage five minutes after half-time.
Javier Hernandez then made it 3-0 in the 65th minute after being played in by Japan’s Shinji Kagawa and substitute Adnan Januzaj completed the scoring in stoppage time.
“Mata was terrific and so were Shinji Kagawa and Darren Fletcher,” said United manager Moyes.
The Scot, who made eight changes from midweek, added: “We’ve left a few players at home and not played a few players. We are hoping they will be fit for Wednesday night’s game at Bayern Munich.”
Fulham moved off the bottom of the table with a 2-1 win away to Aston Villa.
The Cottagers remained in the relegation zone but are now just five points shy of safety with five games left.
Jason Puncheon scored two goals as Crystal Palace moved seven points clear of relegation with a 3-0 win over Cardiff that left the Welsh club in the bottom three.
West Bromwich Albion went five points clear of the drop zone with a 1-0 victory away to Norwich while Hull beat Swansea by the same scoreline at the KC Stadium.