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How will the USA line up vs. Germany?

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There is just over 48 hours to go until the USA face their final Group G game vs. Germany in Recife.

You’e already nervous, aren’t you? Don’t worry, as am I. Let’s try and quell those prematch nerves by speculating who will start and what formation the U.S. will deploy against Joachim Low’s German powerhouse on Thursday. Yeah… that should do the trick.

[ RELATED: World Cup news, analysis from Soccerly ] 

With the USA only needing a point in their final group match to punch a ticket out of the “group of death” and into the Round of 16, there’s a few different ways they could approach this. The main school of thought, especially if you listen to Jurgen Klinsmann’s comments, is that the U.S. will carry on with the status quo and play the same personnel and formation which has fared well vs. Ghana and Portugal. However, with Germany by far the strongest side they will face in group play and Klinsmann’s men only needing a draw, a more cautious lineup and approach may be followed.

Here’s a look at three different ways the USA could lineup vs. Germany on Thursday, with brief explanations as to why it could work. The midfield and attack have been tweaked in all three, with the USA’s defense staying the same after two solid showings so far.

Plan A: Stick with the tried and tested…

The simplest and most likely option, Klinsmann has already spoken about “going for the win” and sticking to his sides philosophy. Starting with the same lineup that drew with Portugal 2-2 in Manaus is the safe option, but is it the best option after his players suffered 90 minutes of draining play in the intense Amazonian humidity? It depends on if Jozy Altidore is fit and ready to come back into the lineup but more than likely he will be on the bench, at best, so the lineup will remain the same. (UPDATE: Altidore is officially out.)

——–Howard——–

Johnson—Cameron—Besler—Beasley

——–Beckerman——–

—Zusi—Bradley—Jones—Bedoya—

——–Dempsey——–

Plan B: Ultra-defensive 

After all, the Germans have scored six goals already during the World Cup and have the likes of Mesut Ozil, Thomas Muller, Miroslav Klose, Lukas Podolski and a whole host of other attacking talents at their disposal. Wowza. If the U.S. are feeling drained from their tireless opening two games, it may serve them well to sit back and soak up the pressure, then aim to strike Germany on the counter. After all, don’t forget, they only need a point to advance. A narrow 4-5-1 formation, with Seattle Sounders youngster DeAndre Yedlin coming into the lineup over Bedoya out wide could happen. Can the USA soak up German pressure for the entire 90 minutes though? It would be a big ask.

——–Howard——–

Johnson—Cameron—Besler—Beasley

—Yedlin—Beckerman—Jones—Bradley—Zusi—

——–Dempsey——–

Plan C: All-out attack

Maybe Klinsmann just goes all out for the win which would see the U.S. avoid Belgium in the last 16 and instead have a much more favorable tie against our old friends Algeria or perhaps Russia or South Korea. If Altidore is back fit, maybe he comes into the lineup from the start, more likely is that Johannsson or Wondolowski come in to partner Clint Dempsey in attack  with Zusi pushed higher. This would be a daring move against a stacked German side, but maybe one they aren’t expecting. A 4-3-3 formation close to the one we saw deployed at times during qualification and the Gold Cup a could work well, but it is also a huge risk.

——–Howard——–

Johnson—Cameron—Besler—Beasley

Bradley—Beckerman—Jones

Zusi—Dempsey—Johannsson

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 first leg comes five days after the pair face off in Bundesliga play.

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?