Offshore drilling, Copa del Rey final: Barcelona 3, Athletic Bilbao 0

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Man of the Match: It’s nice to see Pedro Rodríguez healthy. Hampered by injuries through most of 2012, Pedro returned and scored twice for Barcelona, undoubtedly opening the eyes of Spain national team bas Vicente del Bosque. Despite making Spain’s team for South Africa, the Barça attacker is on the borderline for Euro 2012: Will he make it or not? Today’s performance won’t hurt.

Packaged for takeaway:

  • As I type, it occurs to me this may be the shortest offshore drilling in this segment’s history. This match taught us nothing new and unfolded in a very predictable way.
  • Barcelona came out quick, scored in the third minute (through Pedro) and looked like a team refreshed. Within half an hour, they were up three and seemed to let up, as if the were told by pre-match by Pep Guardiola that if they worked hard for 30 minutes, they’d undoubtedly have control of the match.
  • As a result, the last hour was worthless.
  • Not a bad way to go out for Guardiola. His team was clearly well prepared.
  • Athletic didn’t look as tired as they did earlier this spring, when they were juggling Europa League with fading league prospects. Their energy almost played into Barcelona’s hands, though. At the beginning, they were willing to run with Barça, allowing them to be picked apart.
  • The second goal was a thing of beauty. A knifing ball from Andres Iniesta put Lionel Messi behind the defense, but a little heavy, the pass was speeding out fora goal kick. Messi burst, got to it just in time, and although Gorka Iraizoz gave him little to shoot at, Messi found the upper right hand corner from six yards out.
  • Five minutes later, Pedro completed his double, after which the match was basically over. Athletic played like a team scared of making things worse. Barcelona played like a team that’d spent their season’s last piece of motivation.
  • For Barça, the win is the team’s first major trophy of the season, something the history books will look upon kindly. It would have been strange to look back at 2011-12 and think “wow, Barcelona didn’t win anything.” Copa del Rey and close calls in league and Europe? That sounds about right.
  • Athletic, for the second time in three years, finishes second to Barça in Copa. They also lost in the final of Europa League. Are they the Spanish Bayern Munich, 2012’s bridesmaids that should have been brides? Not quite.
  • Marcelo Bielsa’s team finished the season as they started it: Unimpressively. After getting used to their new boss, Athletic was one of the top 10-or-so teams in Europe. But that was the middle of the year. At the end, they alternated between spent and underwhelming. Today, they were the latter.

Premier League Preview: Swansea City vs. Liverpool

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  • Reds clobbered Swans on Boxing Day
  • Swans six points adrift
  • Reds go third with three-goal win
  • Liverpool leads all-time 23W-8D-11L

Liverpool looks to avoid a letdown when it visits Swansea City at the Liberty Stadium on Monday (Watch live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Swansea City has managed a win over the Reds in each of the previous two seasons, but was simply crushed by Jurgen Klopp‘s men in a 5-0 defeat at Anfield last month.

WATCH ON NBCSN AND ONLINE HERE AT 3 P.M. ET

The hosts badly need to pick up points, though few expect them to do so on Monday. Skeptics, however, will note that Liverpool under Klopp has been giants against the top teams and often lackluster against the other sides.

What they’re saying

Swansea boss Carlos Carvalhal on springing an upset“I would prefer to be Goliath, I would rather be in his position. But during my career most of the time has been spent in the position of David, and we have been able to do some surprises as David. We have done it often, we are working to make more of them. I was kind of the Goliath when I was with Besiktas and Sporting Lisbon, but during those moments Goliath was a little ill.”

Liverpool’s Klopp on goalkeeper Loris KariusMy favourite solution, always, is that we do it with our boys. They step up, they deliver, they improve. The problem they have is that everyone is watching them (through a magnifying glass) and saying ‘still not good enough!’ I will only mention one name. Everyone talks about him with us and that is Butland. I only saw the game (against Manchester United). Fantastic goalkeeper but was he perfect? No. He wasn’t in that game. But everyone says ‘still better than our boys!'”

Prediction

It’s hard to see this going in Swans favor at all, though we’ll peg them to keep it close on the score board: 2-0 to Liverpool.

Transfer rumor roundup: Schurrle to Newcastle, Spurs

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A new name has emerged on the loan market, as Borussia Dortmund forward Andre Schurrle is reportedly being made available for the second half of the Premier League season.

[ WATCH: Full PL match replays ]

Newcastle United reportedly leads the pack for the former Chelsea scorer, who is struggling to get time at BVB thanks to a glut of fantastic wingers including Christian Pulisic.

Magpies boss Rafa Benitez has a good relationship with the Westfalenstadion set, having taken Mikel Merino off their hands in August. Newcastle currently uses Christian Atsu on the left wing and Matt Ritchie on the right, but Schurrle can play center forward and Benitez may prefer to use the 27-year-old in the middle of his trident.

But they’ll face competition, and HITC says BVB is willing to pay half of his wages on an 18-month deal to keep him reasonable for some clubs. This could be a boon for Spurs.

Newcastle and Stoke City have also been linked with Galatasaray midfielder Papa “Badou” Ndiaye, with the Magpies said to have bid just a bit higher than the Potters but still under Gala’s buyout clause.

And here’s a wild one, according to ESPN: Chelsea’s rumored pursuit of current Premier League scorers now includes Marko Arnautovic. The audacious Austrian attacker cost West Ham around $35 million when his head was turned from Stoke City in the summer.

He didn’t perform well but Slaven Bilic, but David Moyes has been able to get some fine performances from the powerful Arnautovic. Chelsea has previously been linked with West Ham teammate Andy Carroll, Burnley’s Ashley Barnes, and Stoke’s Peter Crouch as it attempts to find a center forward to ease the burden placed on Alvaro Morata in his first Premier League season.

World Cup winner, England legend Armfield passes away at 82

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1966 World Cup champion Jimmy Armfield has died at the age of 82.

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup ]

Voted “the best right back” in Europe between 1962-64, the former England and Blackpool captain also had a successful management and broadcasting career.

Armfield was a member of the 1962 and 1966 World Cup squads, though a toe injury kept him from his place in the starting lineup when England won the tournament.

He spent his entire playing career with Blackpool before managing Bolton Wanderers to promotion and Leeds United to the European Cup Final, righting the ship after Brian Clough’s infamous spell in charge of the club.

There’s a statue outside Blackpool’s Bloomfield Road, and the club legend has a stand named after him inside the venue.

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Julie Ertz scores in USWNT win, discovers good Eagles news after

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Whoever scheduled the U.S. Women’s National Team’s friendly against Denmark at the same time as the NFC Championship Game on Sunday night should really consider the Ertz family in the future.

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup — Auba to Arsenal, Man City tracking Evans, Fred ]

While noted USWNT defender Julie Ertz and her team cruised past the Danes in a 5-1 victory, her husband, Zach, was playing a hand in the Philadelphia Eagles’ progression to the NFL’s Super Bowl.

With Julie not knowing what to expect following her team’s match, find out how she took the news of her husband’s triumph in the video below.

While Zach’s night was certainly a memorable one for many reasons, it was Julie that arguably had the better performance — which included a goal in the 19th minute off of a close-range volley.

The USWNT had trailed through 14 minutes, but a combination of goals from Alex Morgan and Ertz in a span of two minutes quickly erased the deficit.

For Morgan, it was her 80th goal for the Stars and Stripes.

Meanwhile, a second-half brace from teenage sensation Mallory Pugh and Crystal Dunn’s finish with nine minutes to play proved to be the icing on the cake for Jill Ellis’ side, who kicked off 2018 with a bang.