Clint Dempsey, Brad Friedel miss out for Spurs

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It would be easy to overlook were the game less meaningful, but when Brad Friedel and Clint Dempsey (right) are on the bench for the season’s first North London Derby, you can’t help but see some meaning in it.

Today, as Spurs visited rival Arsenal to start the English Premier League weekend, both men found themselves on André Villas-Boas’s bench with few excuses to be found.

For Friedel, the selection is the latest salvo in a battle he’s destined to lose. After Spurs’ summer purchase of France international Hugo Lloris, Friedel’s days as Tottenham’s No. 1 were numbered. That he didn’t immediately concede the position to the talented keeper is a testament to his enduring quality, but with $12 million committed to his 25-year-old counterpart, the 41-year-old Friedel’s bound to lose his spot.

Whether today marks that turning point remains to be seen. Villas-Boas has gone to and away from Lloris before this season. It could happen again.

Dempsey’s situation is a little more troubling. The U.S. international has not played well since moving to Tottenham. Today, as Villas-Boas moved away from his preferred 4-3-3 formation and tried a 4-4-2, Dempsey was sacrificed.

As is the case with Lloris, Spurs probably want their summer signing in the team. But unlike the French keeper, Dempsey has been given every chance to cement his place at the top of Spurs’ midfield. His inability to distinguish himself led to his exclusion despite the fact he stayed with the team during the recent international break.

Going forward, it seems Dempsey will be fighting for time with forward Emmanuel Adebayor and Jermain Defoe, Spurs’ coach now willing to move away from his preferred formation to get his in-form players on the field.

With Adebayor having picked up an early red card in today’s derby, Dempsey will likely get two chances to reclaim a starting spot: mid-week at Lazio and next Sunday versus West Ham United, with Adebayor set to serve a suspension. Now, with Villas-Boas showing Dempsey’s no lock for for the starting XI, the American’s grace period is over.

MORE: 10-man Tottenham routed at Arsenal

LAFC selects Urena, 4 others in MLS Expansion Draft

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Los Angeles FC selected five players in the MLS Expansion Draft, including Costa Rican national team star Marco Urena.

Whether they’ll make their way to the City of Angels is another story.

The first pick from general manager John Thorrington was goalkeeper Tyler Miller from Seattle Sounders.

[ MORE: Benitez on NUFC struggles ]

Going next was Latif Blessing from Sporting KC, an electric attacker who netted thrice with an assist last season.

Next was Urena from San Jose and the Costa Rican national team, a huge addition, and then Columbus left back Jukka Raitala before closing up the draft with Raheem Edwards from Toronto FC.

LAFC has already announced the signings or acquisitions of Carlos Vela, Walker Zimmerman, Carlos Alvarez, Monday Etim, and Guillermo Vizcarra.

The club will also loan Omar Gaber from Basel and Rodrigo Pacheco from Lanus.

WATCH LIVE: Three Premier League matches

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Chelsea visits the John Smith’s Stadium to face Huddersfield Town in one of three Premier League fixtures this chilly Tuesday in December (Watch live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

The Blues are now 14 points back of Manchester City, and three points clear of fifth place.

Meanwhile there are a pair of matches on NBC Sports Gold: Burnley looks to keep pace with its Top Four ambitions when it hosts struggling Stoke City, while in-form Crystal Palace seeks a home win that would move it out of the drop zone. In its way? Dangerous, attack-minded Watford.

Burnley vs. Stoke City — 2:45 p.m. ET [ STREAM ]

Huddersfield Town vs. Chelsea — 3 p.m. ET [ STREAM ]

Crystal Palace vs. Watford — 3 p.m. ET [ STREAM ]

FIFA bans Colombia midfielder Cardona 5 games for gesture

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ZURICH (AP) FIFA has banned Colombia midfielder Edwin Cardona for five matches for making a discriminatory gesture with his eyes toward a South Korean opponent.

FIFA will allow Cardona to serve the ban in friendly games, so he should be available for Colombia’s World Cup opener against Japan on June 19.

[ MORE: Pep on post-derby celebrations ]

Cardona has also been fined 20,000 Swiss francs ($20,150) because of the incident last month in a friendly in Seoul.

Cardona apologized at the time, saying he “didn’t mean to disrespect anyone, a country or a race, but if anyone felt offended, or interpreted it in that way, I am sorry.”

Spurs’ Alderweireld won’t return until February

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Spurs finally got a bit of good news this weekend with a blowout of Stoke City.

That was a followed by a tough draw against Juventus in the UEFA Champions League, and bad news on an old injury.

[ MORE: Benitez on NUFC struggles ]

Center back Toby Alderweireld is going to be gone into February, extending his time on the sidelines with a hamstring injury suffered Nov. 1 against Real Madrid.

Spurs were 6-2-2 in league when Alderweireld went down, and are just 2-2-2 since the injury. The Belgian has missed losses at Arsenal and Leicester, draws against Watford and West Brom, and wins over Crystal Palace and Stoke.

Tottenham did win both of its UCL matches since the injury.