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PL Friday Preview: West Ham, Watford looking to stay in top ten

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European competition next season may be out of reach, but a top-ten finish for West Ham and Watford is a distinct possibility as we head towards the home stretch of the regular season. This week of Premier League action is kicked off with a London derby between West Ham and Fulham and Watford visiting Cardiff City.

[READ: The 2 Robbies discuss Man City and Liverpool in the Champions League]

West Ham v. Fulham — 2:45 p.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

One notable name that has been missing from West Ham’s lineup all season could finally be back in the gameday squad. Manager Manuel Pellegrini revealed that Argentine international Manuel Lanzini, along with Samir Nasri, could both feature in West Ham’s match against Fulham on Friday. The 26-year-old midfielder has been out ever since suffering a devastating ACL injury while in World Cup training camp with Argentina.

Whether he’s ready to go 90 minutes is unclear, but West Ham certainly needs him. The squad has lost five consecutive matches in all competitions, with just four goals scored. The strikers haven’t been able to finish very well recently, but the lack of a creative midfielder has really hurt the Irons in the most important sectors of the field.

Fulham meanwhile are in serious trouble with just 12 matches remaining. Fulham is eight points behind Cardiff City in the top spot outside of the relegation zone.

INJURIES: West Ham —  OUT: Jack Wilshere (ankle); PROBABLE: Samir Nasri (calf) | Fulham — OUT: None; PROBABLE: None


Cardiff City v. Watford — 2:45 p.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Watford enacted a little bit of revenge last week after defeating former manager Marco Silva and Everton. This week, it’s arguably a tougher task.

Cardiff City supporters have helped will their team to three-straight victories, after the tragic plane crash carrying footballer Emiliano Sala. Cardiff has poked its head out of the relegation zone, and will be desperate for another home victory. Watford, meanwhile, is looking to solidify a place in the Premier League’s top ten.

Interestingly, all ten of Watford’s wins this season have come with Abdoulaye Doucoure in the starting eleven.

INJURIES: Cardiff City —  OUT: None; PROBABLE: None | Watford — OUT: Kiko Femenia (hamstring); PROBABLE: Roberto Pereyra (hamstring), Isaac Success (hamstring), Sebastian Prödl (hamstring and knee)

Atletico Madrid roster for MLS All-Star Game includes Felix

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Major League Soccer fans will get a good luck at one of the hottest prospects in world soccer when the MLS All Stars take on Atletico Madrid in next week’s MLS All Star Game.

Joao Felix, the $142 million 19-year-old, is among the roster announced by Diego Simeone for the match.

[ MORE: Newcastle in for $28M Saint-Maximin ]

Felix scored 20 times with 11 assists in 40 matches for Benfica before moving to Atleti in the summer. Those numbers include a hat trick against Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League quarterfinals first leg.

The other stars will be there, too, provided no transfers happen in the interim. Koke, Thomas Lemar, Diego Costa, and Saul Niguez are in the squad.

New Atleti defender Kieran Trippier and longtime El Tri hero Hector Herrera will also be sure to help drive attendance in Orlando City.

The full roster is here.

Leagues Cup preview: MLS gets its next shot at Liga MX

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It’s not a typo; The s is very real.

The Leagues Cup — not the League Cup — is the new competition pitting Major League Soccer sides against some of the top sides from Mexico’s Liga MX.

The tournament has been expanded before it’s even seen a ball kicked in competition, as the second edition with go from eight to 16 teams.

[ MORE: Newcastle in for $28M Saint-Maximin ]

For now, though, we’ve got four American and four Mexican sides meeting over the next two months in a bid for North American supremacy not unlike a CONCACAF Champions League stripped of all the minnows.

Much like the CCL, the Mexican sides will be expected to triumph, even with all of the quarterfinals being staged in the United States.

Chicago Fire hosts Cruz Azul on Tuesday, followed by the LA Galaxy’s visit from Club Tijuana.

Wednesday will see the Houston Dynamo host Club America, and Tigres UANL at Real Salt Lake.

The winners meet Aug. 20, while the final will be played Sept. 18 in Las Vegas.

There’s a lot of promise in this, and it gives MLS another chance to make some statements about the distance between it and Liga MX. The Mexican sides have flat out dominated the CCL, and it’s not difficult to make the same prediction for this tournament.

But, like many tournaments, it also gives success-starved clubs a chance to give their fans something big and their players a tonic. For Bastian Schweinsteiger‘s Chicago, for one, it’s a huge opportunity. And for Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the Galaxy, it’s a look toward another piece of silverware for one of the world’s biggest trophy cases.

USMNT prospect Ledezma earns praise from van Nistelrooy

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Even for talents of the highest levels with top soccer education, sometimes a kid’s gotta learn how to eat.

Richard “Richie” Ledezma, 18, is in the midst of his first year at Eredivisie side PSV Eindhoven, a spot which beckoned after a five-match, one-goal season in the USL with Real Monarchs of the USL.

[ MORE: Chicago adds USMNT hero ]

Ledezma starred for U.S. U-20 team at the World Cup after his first half-season with PSV, which saw him play with the U-19s while trying to lose some weight.

From Goal.com:

“PSV help me with my nutrition, with my food and how I eat. It’s the quantity of food you eat, I guess,” he added. “Because I came a little chubby, when I got here, I guess. They all called me ‘fatty’ and stuff, so I was like, cool, you know? So no more McDonald’s.”

Goal’s James Westwood had a wide-ranging interview with Ledezma and also spoke with soccer royalty: longtime Real Madrid and Manchester United scorer Ruud van Nistelrooy was Ledezma’s coach with the U-19s.

“He’s making a difference in midfield with very quick-thinking passes, movement, can score a goal, play people in, he’s creating chances for the whole team.”

That’s not just good praise from a legend, but a solid sign for fans of the United States men’s national team. A proper No. 10 or playmaking midfielder could allow Gregg Berhalter or another future USMNT coach to use Christian Pulisic on the wings.

Ledezma has some work to do before he breaks into the first team of the Dutch runners-up, who have signed former Stoke City man Ibrahim Afellay and has Gaston Pereiro in the fold as well.

Newcastle reportedly in for $28M mercurial Nice attacker

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L’Equipe says that Newcastle United have returned to Nice in the hopes of landing Allan Saint-Maximin.

The Ligue 1 outfit wants $28 million for the playmaker, who could team up with Miguel Almiron and (maybe) Joelinton to give the Magpies a much-improved attack.

[ MORE: Chicago adds USMNT hero ]

Saint-Maximin, 22, has 10 goals and 10 assists across his last two seasons with Nice, and played everywhere in attack for Patrick Vieira: both wings, center forward, second striker, attacking mid… even some left and right midfield.

The player, however, has been a headache for Vieira at times, with the manager saying Saint-Maximin believes that he has enough talent to reach the highest level without the required amount of work.

That said, the youngster’s skill set is electric. He’s a March birth date, too, so a relatively young 22. That $28 million would be another transfer record broken for Newcastle, assuming it happens ahead of the Joelinton move.

Or… as Newcastle fan knows, neither could go through.