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Week 4 – Premier League Power Rankings: Arsenal surging, Man City sinking

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Okay, now we’re getting somewhere with these rankings after a pulsating week of Premier League action.

With Champions League action now in full-flow and the PL’s elite juggling their enormous squads to met the demands of domestic and European success, the strongest teams are coming to the fore.

This past week we saw debutants across the league after making their switch on transfer deadline day before the international break. And plenty of them shone with Marouane Fellaini, Gareth Barry and Mesut Ozil all slotting seamlessly into their new teams.

A few shock results played out as a few of the big boys stumbled in Week 4… find out if it affected their Premier League Power Ranking this week.

By now you should know the drill, but every Wednesday we put our neck on the line to analyze the strength of each Premier League team. Forget about the official league standings, that doesn’t mean squat.

(MORE: Premier League Power Rankings archive)

The Power Rankings take into account the strength of schedule, injuries, suspensions, playing well but still losing and plenty of other variables. The W-L-D bracket shows each PL team’s current record and you can now see how many spots each team has moved, up or down, from week-to-week.

Please feel free to debate the Week 4 Power Rankings… that’s what they’re here for.

RANKING

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1 UP 2 Manchester United: Okay, so it wasn’t vintage stuff from United against Palace, but with Wayne Rooney and RVP building a good understanding and the defense looking solid, David Moyes’ side finally look like scoring goals. Good response from the Liverpool defeat. (2-1-1)
source:  2 UP 3 Arsenal:Many may chuckle at the Gunners being so high but after watching Mesut Ozil live at the weekend, I was blown away. If they can keep all of their key players fit and Giroud stays in top form… who says the Gunners can’t be title contenders this term? (3-1-0)
source:  3  DOWN 2
Chelsea: Mourinho’s ‘young eggs’ are having a little wobble at the moment and Chelsea have a tough game against West London rivals Fulham on Saturday evening. Samuel Eto’o looked rusty in the 1-0 loss to Everton and all eyes will be on the Blues as they take on FC Basel. (2-1-1)
source:  4  – Liverpool: The Reds almost recorded their fourth-straight win to start the season but Swansea equalized late on. The news of Coutinho out injured will hurt Liverpool but they still look likely to score and Brendan Rodgers’ men face Southampton at home on Saturday. Home win. (3-0-1)

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5 DOWN 3 Manchester City: City just aren’t clicking in the Premier League, especially away from home. That being said, a win against rivals Manchester United on Sunday will help their confidence. They look great at the back, but lacked creativity in their 0-0 draw at Stoke. Work in progress. (2-1-1)
source:  6 Tottenham: Spurs completed another shutout win against Norwich, with new signing Christian Eriksen stealing the show to help feed Gylfi Sigurdsson for the goals. AVB has built a strong squad, but Europa League and League Cup games coming up will stretch it to the limit. (3-1-0)
source:  7 Everton: A sensational win against Chelsea on Saturday hammered-home exactly what the Toffees are good at. Forcing the issue and protecting what they have. Gareth Barry looked great in midfield and Roberto Martinez’ side are unbeaten. (1-0-3)
source:  8 Swansea: The Swans may have beaten Liverpool on another night, poor old Jonjo Shelvey… anyway, they looked good against the Reds and ahead of the Europa League trip to Valencia, confidence is building in South Wales. Michu and Wilfried Bony still struggling as a partnership though. (1-2-1)
source:  9 UP 1 Stoke: The Potters probably should have beaten Man City on Saturday, and that’s why they continue their climb up the rankings. Mark Hughes’ side are hard to beat, but they also seem to have extra creativity going forward. However, a tough trip to Arsenal is coming up. (2-1-1)
source:  10  DOWN 1 West Ham: Sam Allardyce’s men looked solid and nothing more against Southampton on Sunday. With Andy Carroll still out and Stewart Downing and Joe Cole missing, the Hammers are missing key attacking pieces but their defense is dragging them through. Steady. (1-1-2)
source:  11  UP 1 Southampton: They shaded West Ham for the majority of the 0-0 draw but the Saints have worryingly only scored four goals in their last nine league games. Going forward they ripped the Hammers apart but found Jussi Jaaskelainen in top form. Frustrating times. (1-1-2)
source:  12 DOWN 1 Norwich: The Canaries were dominated by Tottenham at White Hart Lane and the gulf in class was clear for all to see. Norwich aren’t too bad at the back, but despite all their spending on new strikers this summer, I still find it hard to see where the goals will come from. Home game with Villa up next. (1-2-1)

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13 UP 2 Newcastle: Great few weeks for Newcastle, as they recorded back-to-back wins thanks to a hard-fought win over Aston Villa at Villa Park. Alan Pardew has finally got his entire squad back fit and the Magpies shouldn’t be languishing towards the bottom of the table this season. (2-1-1)
source:  14 Fulham: The Cottagers should heave beaten West Brom at home on Saturday, but a stoppage-time equalizer will frustrate Martin Jol as his new signings are still jelling. Berbatov came close but with Chelsea this weekend, Fulham could be at the wrong end of the table when October rolls around. (1-2-1)
source:  15 DOWN 2
Aston Villa: That opening day win against Arsenal seems an age away, as Villa have now lost three-straight games. Paul Lambert’s men have gone down in tight games but small defensive errors continue to cost them. The trip to Norwich on Saturday is huge. (1-3-0)
source:  16 Cardiff: Not much separating Cardiff from the pack above them in mid-table, perhaps just that cutting-edge up front. The Bluebirds fought back well to grab a point at Hull and could’ve had all three if they had their shooting boots on. Five points from four games is great. (1-1-2)
source:  17 UP 1 Hull: Almost a mirror-image of Cardiff, as both sides looked solid in the 1-1 draw at the KC. Steve Bruce’s men also lack that dynamism up front, but in midfield Huddlestone and Livermore look like two fantastic buys for the Tigers. They face a tricky trip up the East Coast to Newcastle this week. (1-2-1)
source:  18 DOWN 1
West Brom: The Baggies keep battling and finally scored their first goal of the season in the final seconds to snatch a great last-gasp draw at Fulham. Could that be a turning point for the West Midlands side? Steve Clarke and his new signings will certainly hope so. (0-2-2)
source:  19
Crystal Palace: Ian Holloway’s side were hard done by against Man Utd, with a disputed penalty decision on the stroke of half time taking the game away from Palace. They defended well and had a few half chances, that should give them renewed impetus for the game against Swansea at Selhurst Park. (1-3-0)
source:  20 Sunderland: The Black Cats were dominated for the first half but after the break they gave Arsenal a scare. If Jozy Altidore’s strike would’ve stood, Sunderland could have grabbed a morale-boosting point… but they ended up losing 3-1 as Di Canio’s men struggle on. (0-3-1)

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.