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Premier League Preview: Cardiff City

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Each day from now until the beginning of the Premier League season, we will preview two teams from England’s top flight. You can view them all here at PST Preview central. Don’t forget, the 2013-14 PL season begins on August 17th, and for the first-time ever you can watch every game live on NBC Sports.

For the first time in the club’s history, Cardiff City will compete in the Premier League after winning the 2012-2013 Football League Championship title. For the Bluebirds, this season will mark the club’s first taste of top-flight football in 51 years and they’ll look to one of the brightest young managers in the game, Malkay Mackay, to follow the successful path tread by fellow Welsh side and mortal enemy, Swansea City.

With Mackay’s vibrant, attractive style of football and the financial backing of their billionaire Malaysian owner, Vincent Tan, Cardiff City will seek to avoid the jaws of relegation that snap up so many Premier League newcomers.

Transfers In: GK Simon Moore (Brentford); D Steven Caulker (Tottenham); D John Brayford (Derby County); F Andreas Cornelius (FC Copenhagen)

Transfers Out: GK Elliot Parish (Bristol City); D Ben Nugent (Brentford, loan); M Stephen McPhail (free agent); F Nathaniel Jarvis (free agent); F Heidar Helguson (free agent); F Jesse Darko (AO Episkopi Rethymno, Greece)

Key Player: If there is one spot on the field where Cardiff may lack bite, it’s in the box. Enter 20-year-old Danish international Andreas Cornelius (pictured).

source: Getty ImagesThe striker signed with Cardiff in July 2013 for a then club record transfer fee of $12.3 million (£8m). He arrives in South Wales after just one season of first team football, but what a season it was for the youngster, scoring 18 goals and notching five assists in 32 Danish Superliga matches with FC Copenhagen.

His lack of experience, however, shouldn’t come as a worry to Bluebirds supporters as Cornelius gained valuable experience playing in six Champions League qualification matches and four Europa League matches last season.

Cornelius’ strength and power should further enable him to compete well in the Premier League. The 6’4″ striker has been known to bully defenders, possesses strong aerial capabilities and is good at using his body to hold up play. On the ground he’s skilled as well, with a smooth touch, an eye for the cheeky pass and a strong left foot.

Helping Cornelius adapt to life in England’s top flight will be Craig Bellamy, the heart and soul of this Cardiff side. The Cardiff-born striker has plenty of Premier League experience – with spells at Liverpool, Manchester City, West Ham United, Blackburn and Newcastle – and at 34 years old still terrorizesdefenses with gut-busting runs, searing pace and a fiercely competitive spirit.

If Cardiff is to stay up it will be the strike partnership of Cornelius and Bellamy that paves the way.

Manager: Malky Mackay arrived at Cardiff City in June 2011 after spending the first two years of his managerial career with Watford, where the five time capped Scottish international ended his playing career.

During his first season at the helm, Mackay led Cardiff City to Championship Play-Offs and the Carling Cup Final, leading many to consider him one of the best up-and-coming managers in the game. The following season, Mackay justified the praise, guiding the Bluebirds to first place in The Championship, beating out 2nd placed Hull City by eight points.

OutlookCardiff City will find themselves in a fight to stay in the top flight, although of the three promoted sides, the Bluebirds are the most likely to succeed. Their notably strong defense has been bolstered by the recent acquisition of English international Steven Caulker, who will look to prove himself after being used sparingly during his four year stint atTottenham Hotspur. With Caulker and captain Mark Hudson leading the back line, the experience of Peter Whittingham in midfield, the play-making abilities of Craig Noone and the strike-partnership of Cornelius and Bellamy, Cardiff City have the tools to make their first Premier League campaign a successful one.

MORE: Read all the Premier League previews for each team here

Europa League draw: Man Utd learns fate

Manchester United's Henrikh Mkhitaryan, center back to camera, celebrates scoring the opening goal with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, 2nd right, and other teammates during a Europa League round of 32 second leg soccer match between Saint Etienne and Manchester United at Geoffroy Guichard stadium in Saint Etienne, France, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)
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The travel is tricky, but Manchester United’s draw for the UEFA Europa League Round of 16 could’ve been much worse.

The Red Devils are off to Russia to face FC Rostov in the next round of the UEL competition.

[ MORE: Spurs sent packing ]

In another draw that leads you to question whether there’s anything random about it all, United and lone La Liga representative Celta Vigo drew winnable matches against Russian clubs, Roma has a tantalizing match against Lyon, and an all-Bundesliga match hits the docket.

Heck, we’ll even see an all-Belgian tie between Gent vs. Genk.

And in a draw which will have many glued to their sets, USMNT left-sided man Fabian Johnson will help Borussia Monchengladbach against German rivals Schalke.

The Round of 16 legs will be played March 9 and 16.

UEFA Europa League Round of 16

Rostov vs. Manchester United
Celta Vigo vs. Krasnodar
Copenhagen vs. Ajax
Olympiacos vs. Besiktas
Lyon vs. Roma
Schalke vs. Borussia Monchengladbach
APOEL Nicosia vs. Anderlecht
Gent vs. Genk

Electricity restored at Maracana after some late bills paid

This Feb. 2, 2017 shows Maracana stadium with a dry field in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Stadium operators, the Rio state government, and Olympic organizers have fought over $1 million in unpaid electricity bills and management of the venue. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Rio’s electricity utility has turned the power back on at the famous Maracana stadium after it was shut off for almost a month in a dispute over $1 million in unpaid bills.

The utility on Thursday said power had been restored after the stadium operator paid 1.3 million reals ($430,000) in late bills from November through January. It was shut off on Jan. 26 in the dispute.

The utility said it is still negotiating for 1.8 million reals ($600,000) in unpaid bills from the organizing committee of last year’s Rio Olympics. Rio 2016 organizers still owe millions to companies which helped prepare the Olympics and Paralympics

The stadium has been vandalized over the last month with seats torn out, televisions stolen and the grass field left untended.

VIDEO: FC Dallas youngster Kellyn Acosta unleashes howitzer goal

Arabe Unido goalkeeper Miguel lloyd (1) reaches up to block a shot from FC Dallas as defender Rigoberto Nino (2) and FC Dallas' Kellyn Acosta (23) watch in the first half of a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals soccer match, Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017 in Frisco, Texas (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
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With FC Dallas taking on Panamanian club Aribe Unido in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League, 21-year-old Kellyn Acosta grabbed a second for the Major League Soccer club 10 minutes past halftime.

It wasn’t just any old goal. It was a STRIKE.

The Texas native trailed the play, and with Roland Lamah shut off in the box by solid man-marking on the ball, Acosta was there to provide an outlet, and he blasted a vicious strike into the top-left corner. The find by Lamah was a smart one with a host of defenders closing in, and his calm demeanor was rewarded as his teammate launched a rocket into the back of the net.

The goal is a fodder for those who believe Acosta, who has played full-back for much of his career, should be a midfielder instead. His positioning and ability to trail the play with deadly accuracy is what makes this goal so special.

Acosta would bag a third in the dying minutes of the game, giving FC Dallas a 3-0 lead to take on the road as they travel to Panama for the second leg on March 1st.

Top Premier League Storylines – Week 26

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 08:  Claudio Ranieri, manager of Leicester City speaks with his players during the break in extra-time in the Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round replay match between Leicester City and Derby City at The King Power Stadium on February 8, 2017 in Leicester, England.  (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
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Well. This weekend’s return of Premier League action was already slated to be an exciting one, but now with today’s enormous bit of breaking news, it has become even more intriguing.

[ WATCH: Previewing every match in Week 26 ]

There’s plenty to discuss at the top of the Premier League table, as Arsenal and Spurs look to heal their European wounds, but it’s what’s at the bottom that has everyone talking today.

How will Leicester City react after the firing of Claudio Ranieri?

Leicester City vs. Liverpool —  3:00 p.m. EDT Monday on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Well. The Foxes had their work cut out for them coming into this match already, but now it has a whole new flavor. Claudio Ranieri has been dismissed just nine months after winning the Premier League title, and sitting just a point off the drop coming into the weekend (and inside the relegation zone coming into the match?) Leicester City will be lead into King Power Stadium by Assistant Manager Craig Shakespeare and First Team Coach Mike Stowell.

Liverpool stopped a five-match winless streak last time out with a quality 2-0 win over Tottenham, but the Reds defense has been leaky all season, and if Leicester is to break its horrid 610-minute goalless streak, it would be here. The Foxes are without a win in five and have not scored a Premier League goal in all of the 2017 calendar year. Can they respond and begin to play for themselves rather than their former manager?

Can Dele Alli and Tottenham bounce back?

Tottenham Hotspur vs. Stoke City — 8:30 a.m. EDT Sunday on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Spurs looked like they had rediscovered their Champions League form with a comprehensive smothering of Championship side Fulham in the FA Cup. Then, they welcomed KAA Gent to Wembley and promptly lost their heads. Dele Alli was sent off for one of the worst challenges you’ll see, and Spurs were vulnerable as a result, crashing out of the Europa League.

Now, Mauricio Pochettino must regroup the squad and get them ready to host Stoke, a team they clobbered 4-0 in the third match of the season. The squad is still healthy, and the loss of European play may actually help them in the long run. Here, however, it provides them with negative form and a short prep time. They need this one badly to solidify a top four place moving forward, can Poch turn it around?

Can Sunderland get a result against surging Everton?

Everton vs. Sunderland — 10:00 a.m. EDT Saturday on NBCSports.com

Hull City hosts Burnley. Crystal Palace welcomes Middlesbrough. With those two fellow occupants of the relegation zone playing at home against lower-half sides, the spotlight is squarely on Sunderland. The Black Cats have a tough matchup, on the road at Everton.

The Toffees haven’t lost a Premier League match since falling to Liverpool in mid-December, and have scored 19 goals in the eight matches since that blemish. With that in mind, Sunderland must get some kind of a result to pull off the bottom of the Premier League table. Can they snatch points at Goodison Park?

EFL Cup final could leave Chelsea well out in front

Chelsea vs. Swansea City — 10:00 a.m. EDT Saturday on NBCSports.com

Chelsea is already eight points ahead of the pack and looks to be the clear favorite to win the Premier League title. It could get even clearer after this week. Manchester United is off, Manchester City is off, and Arsenal is off. Couple that with Tottenham struggling and Liverpool facing a desperate Leicester City side, and it’s entirely conceivable that a win for Chelsea over Swansea City could leave the Blues as far as 11 points clear at the top of the table, albeit a game ahead of some. That would all but wrap things up, wouldn’t it?