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Premier League Team of the Week (Matchweek 4)

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Matchweek 4 of the Premier League saw a number of notable performances but none better than the following Starting XI.

Goalkeeper: Jussi Jääskeläinen (West Ham United) 

Jussi Jääskeläinen was at it again on Saturday, sprawling his way to five saves and a third clean sheet of the season. The Flying Fin had a number of fine parries during the match but none better than his 13th minute point-blank save on Italian international Pablo Osvaldo.

Defender: Robert Huth (Stoke City) 

Robert Huth led the Stoke City backline that held Manchester City goal-less at the Britannia, handing the Potters their second straight clean sheet. The tough-as-nails German overcame getting knocked out cold by the leaping effort of Alvaro Negredo to rip into a team high five tackles and dominate the airways, winning seven of eight aerial duels.

Defender: Curtis Davies (Hull City)

Curtis Davies has been a revelation in Hull City’s opening four matches and this week the center-back finally gets recognized for his standout performances after nodding home the Tigers only goal of the game. The 28 year old was equally sharp on the defensive side of the ball, streaking his way to 10 clearances and three interceptions.

Defender: Phil Jagielka (Everton)

Holding the high-powered Chelsea offense at bay is a massive achievement and for that, Everton captain Phil Jagielka gets the nod. The England international led the Toffees back four with a game-high 12 clearances.

Midfielder: Gylfi Sigurdsson (Tottenham Hotspur)

With all of Spurs new signings, Gylfi Sigurdsson risked finding himself the odd man out this season at White Hart Lane. But handed a chance to prove himself against Norwich City and the Iceland international made the most of it, scoring a fantastic opener before completing his brace from close range. It’s performances like that which will give manager Andre Villas-Boas headaches when filling out the team sheet going forward.

Midfielder: Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal)

Speaking of doubles, Aaron Ramsey’s two goal effort in Arsenal’s victory over Sunderland brought to light just how brilliant the Wales international has been this season. The brace was his second of the season, after notching an impressive double against Fenerbahce in the second leg of Champions League qualifying.

Midfielder: Gareth Barry (Everton)

What can you say about Gareth Barry? After being left for dead by Manuel Pellegrini at Manchester City, Barry was scooped up by Everton on a season long loan and in his debut for the Merseyside club the 32 year old was totally dominant. Time after time Barry thwarted the Chelsea attack, most notably when his sliding block on Samuel Eto’o denied the striker a sure-fire goal.

Midfielder: Hatem Ben Arfa (Newcastle)

Arguably the most in-form winger in the Premier League, Hatem Ben Arfa (pictured) enjoyed yet another sensational day for the Magpies. With his combination of blinding quickness and slippery skills, the Frenchman torched the Aston Villa defense, scoring the opener and creating the game-winner with a hard hit shot that Brad Guzan could only parry into the path of Yoan Gouffran.

Midfielder: Mesut Ozil (Arsenal)

The German international showed no need for a Premier League adjustment period as he played his way to a fine debut for the Gunners. His assist on Olivier Giroud had Arsenal supporters cooing and when it emerged that he played the entire match with the flu, he became an instant cult hero.

Striker: Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)

Coming back from the head gash that prevented him from appearing in the 1-0 loss to Liverpool, Wayne Rooney was fantastic once again. Rooney was all over the place against Palace, creating four chances on eight crosses, pounding five shots on goal and scoring a peach of a free kick. David Moyes has pledged to play Rooney as the supporting striker directly inside Robin van Persie and with with the destructive Marouane Fellaini freeing the England international up, his manager’s target of 30 goals is well within sight.

Striker: Olivier Giroud (Arsenal)

Olivier Giroud made it four goals in four matches for Arsenal when he latched on to Ozil’s low cross to deftly sweep home the Gunners opener. Up top, the Frenchman is a force to be reckoned with not only for his eye for goal but for his competitiveness which on Saturday resulted in winning a match high 12 duels.

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?

Mario Balotelli handed 2-match ban for abusing referee

FILE- In this Thursday, Nov. 3, 2016 file photo, Nice's forward Mario Balotelli, of Italy, reacts during the Europa League group I soccer match between OGC Nice and FC Salzburg, in Nice stadium, southeastern France. Nice striker Mario Balotelli’s teammate Alassane Pleas has confirmed he heard Bastia supporters racially abusing Balotelli with monkey chants during the league match on Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Claude Paris, File)
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After being sent off for referee abuse in last weekend’s Ligue 1 win over FC Lorient, Nice striker Mario Balotelli has been handed a two-match ban.

Balotelli earned his second red card of the season in the 69th minute of a 1-0 win that kept Nice within striking distance of the leaders Monaco. It was his second straight red and third sending-off of the season, having already been dismissed in reverse fixture against Lorient after a pair of yellows in the final three minutes of the game.

After the mercurial Italian’s hot start to the season, he has just one goal in the last two months, the third in a 3-1 win over Guingamp. He has not scored a point-winning goal since bagging both in a 2-1 win over Dijon back on December 18th.

Balotelli’s agent, the well-known Mino Raiola, was so frustrated with his client’s continual dismissal problems that he told French media conglomerate RMC Sport that the solution to Balotelli’s problems is to “cut out his tongue.”

“I have already found the solution: you have to cut out his tongue,” Raiola said bluntly. “To play soccer, there is no need for language! In all seriousness, he knows he made a big mistake and he has no excuse. He knows he needs to improve that. He is very sad for him, for the team.”

The suspension leaves Balotelli on the sidelines for tomorrow’s match against 11th placed Montpellier and then on March 4th at 17th placed Dijon. Nice sits in third, level on points with 2nd placed PSG and three back of leaders Monaco.