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Premier League Playback – Deadline Day madness, Chelsea’s ‘killers,’ Liverpool’s fluid-three

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TRANSFER DEADLINE DAY – THE FINALE ARRIVES

Happy Deadline Day, one and all. If you’re not familiar with this phenomenon, here it goes. From 11 p.m. Greenwich Mean Time (6 p.m. ET) on September 1, no Premier League teams will be allowed to sign another player until January 1, 2015. All 20 Premier League teams have had since July 1 to sign players. With 62 days to sign whoever you want, plus the time before that to line up deals, why on earth would teams wait until the last minute to sign players?

For the same reason why people rummage around in the bargain bucket: one day, just one day, you could pick out a gem. Deadline Day is a strange beast, one that had caught on across Europe, but most notably in the UK, over the past decade since it arrived in 2003. During the last two months, fans and journalists’ very existence has been spent chasing down reports, reading them, absorbing them, trying to unravel them and then having hopes dashed. It is mad, absorbing and utterly preposterous all at the same time. On the day itself, an intriguing game of cat and mouse plays out, all televised across many networks as the media fuels the incessant need for news, updates and pictures of players arriving at training grounds for medicals and contract talks. It has spiraled out of control.

So that you can take a glance at all the action in all its glory, tune in live to NBCSN from 6 p.m. ET as we have a two-hour special on all the deals.

All last week at PST we stated what each Premier League team needed to do in the final few days, and now hours, of the transfer window. Click on each team below to see if they have achieved what they needed or if they’re still scrambling for players. The latter is most likely.

With plenty of names and moves still expected up until the deadline slams shut at 6 p.m. ET on Monday, anything could happen.  The big names expected to be on the move on deadline day include Radamel Falcao, Javier Hernandez, Alvaro Negredo, Daley Blind, Jermain Defoe, Tom Cleverley, Jay Rodriguez, Sandro, William Carvalho and Toby Alderweireld among many others. Plus, there are always plenty of shock last-gasp deals and a boat load of loan moves to fall back on.

British TV stations (see the video above for an example) will cut to shots of Big Ben chiming its little heart out at 6 p.m. ET on Monday and fans of teams around the nation will either be puffing out their cheeks in relief that their clubs’ star player wasn’t sold, punching the air with delight after several shrewd late deals or holding their head up with the palm of their hand in despair. Transfer Deadline Day did not exist a little over 10 years ago, now it is etched into the English obsession with the game as much as pie and bovril.

[RELATED: Deadline Day news]

Love it or loathe it, Deadline Day creates excitement, intrigue and often entails watching TV journalists chase down PL managers in parking lots at the training complexes, as they try to speed away in high-end SVU’s. Past Deadline Days have seen the likes of Carlos Tevez arrive at West Ham, Ashley Cole head to Chelsea and Marouane Fellaini move to Everton. Those were the hits… though there have been some rather awful pickups at the deadline, as Fernando Torres to Chelsea for $80 million and Andy Carroll to Liverpool for $60 million back in 2011 are right up there with the worst. Oh, and Fellaini to Manchester United last summer. Poor old Marouane has had a mixed time of things on Deadline Day.

Gone are the days of PL chairmen nonchalantly calling each other (fax was probably the form of communication back then) cigar in hand, and putting in requests to buy a player. Now, “sources confirm” or “reports suggest” deals are happening. There are middle men for middle men, agents drip-feeding information and fans are caught up in the middle of it all on social media.

If you are new to Deadline Day, my suggestion is to simply embrace it. In the way that draft picks encapsulate fans of the NFL, Deadline Day has created its own mystic. Can it be altered to be made better and more logical? Probably. But right now, gaze on in wonderment at players shuttle across the UK just before midnight local time, are thrown a new team shirt and told to smile as the ink still dries on their new contract. What happens next is that the players, managers, directors and fans all hope the transfer is a successful one. If not, we only have to wait until January 31 to do it all again.

CHELSEA’S ‘KILLERS’ PREVAIL IN CLASSIC

One of the most entertaining matches in recent PL history took place on Saturday, as Chelsea beat Everton 6-3 in a nine-goal thriller at Goodison Park.

Premier League Schedule – Week 3

Result Recap & Highlights
Aston Villa 2-1 Hull City Recap and watch here
Burnley 0-0 Manchester United Recap and watch here
Everton 3-6 Chelsea Recap and watch here
Leicester City 1-1 Arsenal Recap and watch here
Manchester City 0-1 Stoke City Recap and watch here
Newcastle 3-3 Crystal Palace Recap and watch here
QPR 1-0 Sunderland Recap and watch here
Swansea 3-0 West Brom Recap and watch here
Tottenham 0-3 Liverpool Recap and watch here
West Ham 1-3 Southampton Recap and watch here

The game ebbed and flowed, had frenetic periods with tons of goals, Tim Howard almost killed a man (Diego Costa, to be precise) and two teams attacked with pace, precision and power. In a nutshell, this game encapsulated why the Premier League is the most watched league around the world and why, over everything, it is the most entertaining.

Is soccer a sport, or an entertainment business?

Woah, pump the breaks, let’s save that philosophical Rubik cube for another day, shall we. However, watching Chelsea and Everton going at it at Goodison moved that question prominently into my thoughts as goal after goal arrived. After the game, Jose Mourinho lambasted his team for having a lack of balance but then saluted his ‘killers’ as Roberto Martinez bemoaned so many costly defensive mistakes. Everton have now conceded 10 goals in their opening three PL games and even their usual upbeat Spanish coach must have sat in a dark room for a few hours after this performance.

“If the salt and the pepper of football is goals then to have nine goals in a Premier League match is fantastic ingredients,” Mourinho said. “The two teams played fantastically well. I know Everton are a good offensive side and their movement is not easy to control but we concede three goals it is too much. All of them I can clearly identify mistakes and those who are involved but in the end we are killers in attack.”

Mourinho’s main marksmen were Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa. The latter now has four goals in three PL starts, as the Brazilian was fired up from the start and has that mean streak all good players seem to possess (more on that shortly), while he was supplied the ammunition by Fabregas. The Spaniard slid an inch-perfect pass through to Costa after 36 seconds to score the opener and Everton just couldn’t stop Cesc’s magic. Although they obviously made a few mistakes at the back, Chelsea looked so deadly in attack. That’s in great contrast to last season when they would grind out wins against teams and defend for their lives. The new-look Chelsea may concede more but they will embarrass plenty more teams if they carry on this offensive assault. Everton weren’t that bad in this nine-goal thriller. Chelsea were just bloody good going forward. With the addition of Loic Remy to replace Fernando Torres, Mourinho’s attacking options have been bolstered further. That’s frightening for the rest of the PL.

LIVERPOOL’S FRONT THREE CLICK

Another team looked ominous offensively over the weekend: Liverpool. Daniel Sturridge. Raheem Sterling and now, Mario Balotelli, stole the show.

Those three clicked into place perfectly at White Hart Lane, slaughtering Spurs’ defense with blistering counter attacks a Liverpool emanated signs that last season’s success wasn’t just a one-year wonder. Sterling’s star shone bright as the England winger scored the first and could have had two or three more of his own. Spurs just couldn’t deal with the third man runs Liverpool launched time and time again. When Balotelli would check in to receive the ball high, either Sterling, Jordan Henderson or Sturridge would already be making a forward run for the next pass. What this did was totally throw off a Spurs side built on high pressure and thwarting the opposition from getting in behind the defense. Liverpool did it time and time again.

Sterling stole the show. The English winger is so quick over the first 15-20 yards, he is gone before defenders can react. Sturridge was sublime in control of the ball and his passing helped set up numerous attacks, while Balotelli ran himself into the ground for the cause and enjoyed a decent 60 minutes 0n his Liverpool debut. After the game, Brendan Rodgers revealed that he is trying to turn the enigmatic Italian into a team player and revealed the following exchange between him and Mario on the training ground this week.

Remarkable. If Balotelli is to replace Suarez and cause havoc alongside Sturridge and Sterling this season, he will need to continue to buy into the team-first mantra which is effervescent at Anfield. In his first game, the signs are promising that ‘Super Mario’ can be a key part of Liverpool’s phenomenal three-pronged attack. Balotelli’s finishing is usually top notch but he looked nervous after snatching at two early chances. Whatever his finishing lacked on Sunday, he made up for that in effort, link up play and focus.

Rodgers is taking a chance on Balotelli who was the center of attention on debut but with Sterling and Sturridge both reformed and rehabilitated under his stewardship, who’s to say Balotelli isn’t next? Here is his Instagram post after his debut, as he saluted Steven Gerrard after his penalty kick goal. Balotelli would normally take PKs but Liverpool skipper Gerrard pulled rank and instead of Balo sulking, he respected the decision and seems to be buying into Liverpool’s team spirit. Respect and admiration for Gerrard and his teammates will earn Balotelli the same in return. Everything is rosy in the garden at Anfield after Balotelli’s arrival. For now.

STOKE STUN MAN CITY, SILKY SAINTS AND SWANS

Despite salivating over Liverpool’s performance on Sunday, plus the incredible scenes in the shootout at Goodison on Saturday, Stoke City provided the biggest shock of the weekend. The Potters went to Manchester City and won. For the first time in their Premier League existence, Stoke beat Man City away from home and in 12 attempts, they won in Manchester against their two big rivals.

Mame Biram Diouf’s powerful 80-yard run and then a cheeky finish through Joe Hart’s legs succumbed City to just their second home defeat in the PL since

Premier League Star Performers – Week 3

Player Reason
1. Raheem Sterling 1 goal, incredible speed, skill
2. Morgan Schneiderlin 2 goals, sensational CM display
3. Diego Costa 2 goals, clinical forward play
4. Nathan Dyer 2 goals, superb pace on flank
5. Cesc Fabregas Assist, Chelsea’s creative hub

To make his goal even sweeter, Diouf was a former Manchester United player. The bullish Senegalese forward came back to haunt United’s close rivals, a the Citizens were left shaking their heads as Manuel Pellegrini’s men saw their fast start to the season come to a shuddering halt with their first defeat in three.

Elsewhere, two other sides beginning with ‘S’ have been described as a word beginning with ‘S’ for quite some time… no, no, let’s keep this PG. ‘Stylish’ was the word I was looking for, duh, and both Swansea and Southampton have it in abundance. Garry Monk’s side made it three wins from three to start the season as they beat West Bromwich Albion 3-0 with Nathan Dyer grabbing another two goals and Wayne Routledge scoring an absolute stunner. The Swans’ philosophy of fluid, expansive and patient soccer has been carried on under Monk’s stewardship as the former club captain, aged just 34, continues the South Wales clubs stunning start to his first full season in charge. Elsewhere, Southampton are showing signs of recovering and getting back on the horse too. A painful summer exodus at St. Mary’s has been well documented but we are finally seeing the new signings gel as Ronald Koeman’s men rolled over West Ham after going behind early on. Morgan Schneiderlin scored twice and Graziano Pelle scored his first PL goal in a utterly dominant 3-1 win. The Saints, Swans and Stoke went marching on this weekend.

Watch the video above for a recap of Saturday’s action, while the video below recaps Sunday’s three games.

USMNT UPDATE – HEADING TO PRAGUE

Brad Guzan continues to hold onto the “American player of exceptional awesomness” gong after the weekend. Aston Villa ground out another hard-fought win and are now unbeaten through three games, winning twice, as the Villans sit third in the league. Guzan has conceded just once in 270 minutes and the USMNT number one heads over to Prague in fine fettle as the USA’s first choice ‘keeper. Tim Howard, the man Guzan will be taking over from between the posts during his sabbatical, didn’t have such a great weekend.

WATCH: USA vs. Czech Rep. – Live on NBCSN,  Wednesday, 2:15 p.m. ET

Howard let in six goals as Chelsea beat Everton 6-3, the USMNT ‘keeper also got away with handling outside the box and then was booked for his part in a scuffled involving his teammate Seamus Coleman and Chelsea striker Diego Costa. Watch this clip to see Howard’s reaction as Costa taunted Coleman following the latter scoring an own goal to put Chelsea 3-1 ahead. Poor sportsmanship from Costa. Howard wasn’t having any of it. That reaction had been brewing as both players were going at it psychically and verbally during the game in a heated duel. Timmy stepped in to put Costa in his place.

Geoff Cameron was injured in Stoke’s midweek 3-0 League Cup win over Portsmouth and didn’t feature in the Potters’ incredible 1-0 win away at Manchester City. The USMNT defender is said to be on the move during deadline day, with Sunderland, Lazio and Southampton all teams being linked with the Bostonian. As for Jozy Altidore, he jumped off the bench again as Sunderland lost 1-0 away at QPR.

Guzan and Altidore will join up with the U.S. national team in the Czech Republic, as you can watch the USA’s first game since the World Cup live on NBCSN at 2:15 p.m. ET on Wednesday.

Premier League Playback comes out every Monday and takes an alternative look at all the action from the weekend. Read the full archive, 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.

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?