Tottenham Hotspur's Dempsey scores a goal against Panathinaikos during their Europa League soccer match in London

Injury sees Clint Dempsey miss out again for Spurs

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Last week it took us by surprised, but after getting word of his injury, concern about Clint Dempsey’s exclusion from Tottenham’s team against Stoke proved much ado about nothing. Whereas the first reaction from U.S. Men’s National Team fans was one of concern, word of “Deuce’s” groin injury help assuage worries the USMNT linchpin was losing time with his club.

But over the Christmas holiday we heard very little about his (or anybody’s) fitness, so when the U.S. international was again excluded from André Villas-Boas’s team for today’s match at Villa Park, there were renewed concerns. Only this time, the concerns were accompanied by a bit of conspiracy.

Where’s Clint Dempsey? And why don’t we know more about his status?

Today against Aston Villa, Villas-Boas has selected the same four players who started at forward and wide midfield in Spurs’ 0-0 weekend draw with Stoke. Emmanuel Adebayor and Jermain Defoe were up top. Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon wide.

And just under an hour into today’s match, the results have been much the same. That Tottenham has continued to struggle without Dempsey will provide some solace for Deuce’s biggest supporters, even if Defoe’s broken through near the hour.

MORE: Wayne Rooney set to miss three weeks for Manchester United

Still, all this fretting exaggerates the influence of Dempsey’s injury. While it’s true that the former Cottager may see slightly less time in a fully healthy Spurs team, he’s not going to be forgotten. Villas-Boas clearly values Dempsey’s contributions, which is why the American was not only immediately inserted into Spurs’ starting XI after his arrival but also maintained his place during his early season adaptation.

And paranoia about his injury status may also go too far. Given the nature of groin injuries, if Dempsey was hurt on Saturday, it’s not unreasonable that he’d continue to have problems today. It’s only been three days.

Until we hear more, there’s no reason to think Dempsey’s fitness is a serious concern. Nor is there reason to think he’s fallen out of favor at White Hart Lane.

Agent: “There’s no hatred” between Bale, Ronaldo

Gareth Bale & Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid CF
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Gareth Bale doesn’t at all dislike Cristiano Ronaldo — or vice versa — despite what may seem a lukewarm on-field relationship between the two Real Madrid superstars, insists Jonathan Barnett, agent of Bale.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Instead, Barnett insists that the two men with very different personalities have a healthy relationship, and competition, that pushes each Galactico to be the best player he can be.

Barnett, on Bale’s relationship with Ronaldo — quotes from the Guardian:

“They don’t go out eating every night together, but it’s fine. There’s no hatred there. Gareth is a quiet guy. They’re complete opposites. But I think Gareth can learn a little bit from Ronaldo as well, interacting maybe a little bit. But he wants his own life and he lives it. Gareth is a great footballer, he doesn’t want anything more. He has some very good endorsements but his whole life is to be the best footballer in the world. I don’t think he wants to be the best model in the world or the best underwear seller. That’s not him.”

That’s a hilarious closing quote from Barnett, but he knows exactly how some folks are going to interpret it: “Bale thinks Ronaldo loves himself too much.”

[ MORE: Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott ]

There’s nothing better for the ultimate success of a team than healthy, friendly competition between teammates who are spectacularly talented as Ronaldo and Bale. The former will only be around to perform at his current level for so much longer, but at what point does the latter officially take the torch and supplant Madrid’s biggest star, and how accepting will he be of passing that proverbial torch?

Olivier Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott

Olivier Giroud, France
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Is it just me, or does the press really only ever get noteworthy quotes from players during international breaks?

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

I suppose it’s not surprising, given Premier League players get away from the mean ole British press, go back to their respective homelands and speak with journalists they’ve likely known since their early playing days, thus feel more comfortable opening up about key issues.

Anyway, today we have Olivier Giroud essentially calling himself out for having lost the starting striker’s job at Arsenal because he’s been outplayed of late by Theo Walcott. As discussed before, this is bad news for Giroud because he’s now falling down the depth chart for France with next summer’s European Championship on the horizon.

[ MORE: Aguero admits he wants Guardiola link-up ]

Giroud, on losing his place at Arsenal — quotes from the Guardian:

“At Arsenal, I am in competition with Theo for the striker position. But he is doing well at the moment, so there is no reason to change.

“Whether it was at Tours, Montpellier or Arsenal, I have never experienced a situation like this, I have often played from the start. I need to take positives and to harden myself mentally. It is something new for me.

“I was in [Walcott’s] place in previous seasons at Arsenal. I imagine what he must have been thinking. But I feel that the coach believes in me.”

Giroud goes on to cast into doubt his own confidence, stating in very certain terms he needs “to believe more in [his] abilities.” Giroud’s always come across as a bit of an existentialist, but it’s always strange to hear players publicly call themselves out — particularly their confidence — as if that’s not going to increase the pressure currently weighing down on them.

[ MORE: Rodgers reportedly chosen to take over at Aston Villa ]

The next eight months are going to be monumentally important in Giroud’s career, as the 29-year-old attempts to prove he’s worth keeping around at Arsenal and deserving of a place in the national team squad for next summer’s EUROs, which are to be played in France.