Watch Live: Aston Villa vs. West Ham United (Lineups and Discuss)

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For every team in the bottom half of the Premier League table, each match is a relegation battle – but West Ham’s visit to Villa Park is truly vital, as a win could lift the Irons out of the drop zone (watch live online on NBC Sports Live Extra at 10 a.m. ET).

West Ham have picked up four points from their last two matches, picking up a draw against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge before beating Swansea City 2-0 at Upton Park last weekend. But that doesn’t mean they’re out of the drop zone just yet – their fellow strugglers are also improving, and so the Irons remain a point from safety. That likely means we’ll be treated to a display more in line with what was seen at the Bridge than the actual attacking football the side showed off in the first hour last weekend.

Aston Villa’s form may have improved in recent weeks, but just because they’re sitting tenth doesn’t mean they’re out of danger – that’s just five points above the drop. Paul Lambert, who entered contract negotiations this week, knows that appeasing the fans means improving the home record, and it’s likely the hosts will go all out to find three points rather than one.

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Last week, Andy Carroll was sent off with a straight red after an altercation with Swansea defender Chico Flores. Despite West Ham appealing their appeal to the FA, the three-match ban still stands, and Carroll with miss out. Instead it’s Carlton Cole that Sam Allardyce has put up front, favoring the devil he knows over new forward Marco Borriello, who remains on the bench.

Villa make two changes to the side that lost against Everton last week. Captain Ron Vlaar misses out with injury, with Matthew Lowton stepping into defense. Gabby Agbonlahor takes over the armband, taking over from Grant Holt, with Andi Weimann and Christian Benteke joining him up top.

LINEUPS

Aston Villa: Guzan, Lowton, Clark, Baker, Bertrand, Bacuna, Westwood, Delph, Weimann, Benteke, Agbonlahor

Subs: Steer, El Ahmadi, Sylla, Helenius, Albrighton, Holt, Bennett.

West Ham United: Adrian, Demel, Tomkins, Collins, McCartney, Nolan, Noble, Taylor, Jarvis, C.Cole, Downing

Subs: Jaaskelainen, Reid, Armero, Collison, Johnson, Borriello, Nocerino

U.S. Open Cup roundup: Poku lifts Miami; Red Bulls, Cincy win on PKs

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While MLS represents the majority of the remaining clubs in this year’s U.S. Open Cup, one side continues to defy the odds.

[ MORE: Minnesota United adds Hearts midfielder Sam Nicholson ]

Miami FC reached their first quarterfinal in club history after knocking off Atlanta United late on Wednesday, behind a goal and an assist from Kwadwo Poku. The victory for Miami sets up a date with FC Cincinnati — who pulled off an unbelievable shootout win against the Chicago Fire.

Meanwhile, the New York Red Bulls and New England Revolution both advanced on the night with wins over the Philadelphia Union and D.C. United, respectively. The Red Bulls and Revs will meet in the final eight as well.

Sporting KC kept its hope of hoisting a fourth U.S. Open Cup title alive on Wednesday with a 2-0 win over the Houston Dynamo. The 2015 winners will take on FC Dallas — who defeated the Colorado Rapids on Tuesday night.

Here are all the results from tonight’s Open Cup action.

Houston Dynamo 0-2 Sporting KC
New England Revolution 2-1 D.C. United
Miami FC 3-2 Atlanta United
New York Red Bulls 1-1 (5-3 on PKs) Philadelphia Union
FC Cincinnati 0-0 (3-1 on PKs) Chicago Fire
San Jose Earthquakes 2-1 Seattle Sounders
LA Galaxy 2-0 Sacramento Republic

Report: City Football Group set to expand outreach with Girona deal

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City Football Group appears on the verge of adding to its global outreach, and it’s next destination looks to be in Spain.

[ MORE: Are Southampton’s days of selling behind the club? ]

The group of investors, which are known for controlling Premier League side Manchester City, are reportedly nearing a deal to purchase a partial stake in Spanish club Girona — which is set to make its La Liga debut in 2017/18.

CFG is said to be gaining a near “50 percent” stake in the club, with the rest of the club owned by Media Base, a company owned by Pep Guardiola‘s brother, Pere.

Over recent years, CFG has vastly expanded its ownership outreach and currently has a stake in five clubs around the world, with Girona set to be the sixth.

MLS side New York City FC, Australian A-League side Melbourne City FC, Japan’s Yokohama F. Marinos and Club Atletico Torque in Uruguay are all part of the CFG enterprise, alongside Man City.

New York Red Bulls ink goalkeeper Luis Robles to new deal

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The “Iron Man” will keep up his amazing journey with the New York Red Bulls, after signing a new deal with the club on Wednesday.

[ MORE: Wesley Sneijder on verge of joining Los Angeles FC ]

Goalkeeper Luis Robles has extended his contract with the reigning Eastern Conference champions, as the American continues to raise his consecutive starts streak, which stands at 157.

The terms of the deal were not disclosed in the club’s release.

Robles joined the Red Bulls back in 2012 after playing in Germany, and the shot-stopper hasn’t missed a start ever since.

Report: Minnesota United adds Hearts midfielder Sam Nicholson

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Minnesota United has had its shares of ups and down in its debut MLS season, but the Loons are on the verge making an exciting young signing.

[ MORE: Wesley Sneijder closing in on Los Angeles FC move ]

ESPN FC is reporting that Minnesota will sign Hearts winger Sam Nicholson from the Scottish Premier League on a deal that makes him a Loon until 2019.

The young attacker is expected to join the MLS side when the summer transfer window opens on July 10.

Nicholson, 22, has played with the Edinburgh side since his youth days, and made his senior debut with the club in 2013. During his time at Hearts, Nicholson scored 16 goals in all competitions for the team.

Last season, Nicholson missed 16 matches due to a significant knee injury.

According to the report, Scottish sides Rangers and Aberdeen were also among those interested in acquiring Nicholson, while English Championship clubs Bristol City and Barnsley also reached out about the attacker.