The first domestic trophy of the English season is decided this weekend. The Worthington Cup, long dismissed as an inconvenience by the "big" clubs, has suddenly taken on new importance. Indeed, it probably represents the best opportunity for both Manchester United and Liverpool to win some silverware this season.
It's always a tad risky punting on teams who've been in Champions League or UEFA Cup action the preceding week so, consequently, the game looks a less than attractive betting proposition.
As we edge towards the business end of the season, there are an increasing number of "must win" games for clubs each week. Sunderland face some such encounter with their visit to London to take n Fulham. Having been comprehensively dumped out of the FA Cup at Burnley, in addition to playing twice in 48 hours, Fulham look prime candidates to be turned over. There has to be a distinct possibility that Howard Wilkinson's men might just be able to keep themselves in touch with the rest of the Premiership stragglers. At 4-1, and with Kevin Phillips re-discovering his goal touch, there are certainly worse bets this weekend.
Elsewhere, West Ham United need to build on last weekend's success at the Hawthorns if they are to have realistic hopes of survival. Tottenham, currently bereft of anything much in the way of strikers, are surely there for the taking? At 7-5, the Hammers need to and should clinch their second Upton Park victory of the season.
There is only one game in the 1st Division that has any real appeal and that is Stoke City to beat Burnley at 6-4. Tony Pulis' side will be desperate for the points in their battle against the drop, whilst the visitors, stranded in mid-table no-man's land and with an FA Cup quarter-final to look forward to, may have their minds elsewhere.
Bristol City, boosted by the loan signing of Mark Robins from Rotherham United, should be good enough to continue their recent improvement and secure the three points at home to Bobby Gould's relegation threatened Cheltenham Town at odds of 4-7. Crewe Alexandra will be looking to hang on to second spot with victory at home to improving Peterboro. The 4-9 on offer may be a tad short, but it is hard to oppose Dario Gradi's team. There's a vital relegation scrap at the McAlpine Stadium, where Huddersfield Town entertain Northampton Town. The Terriers have found scoring goals problematic all season, but have gradually starting to find some form. The Cobblers, on the other hand, are in free-fall, having just sacked Terry Fenwick after seven games without victory that saw the club plummet into the bottom four. The 5-6 for Huddersfield looks a reasonable punt. Wigan Athletic, 12 points clear at the summit, look too strong for Chesterfield, although 3-10 does look particularly unattractive for a side that have a tendency to only win narrowly. Luton Town, pressing strongly for a play-off spot, could present some value at 6-4 to take the points at Notts County. Blackpool, at 8-11, should maintain their play-off hopes with victory over mid-table Wycombe Wanderers.
In Division three, Cambridge United could be worth keeping an eye on at 11-10 to beat Torquay United. John Taylor's side are fairly prolific in front of goal. For their part, Torquay, despite their elevated position, are less than tight defensively. Both will be desperate for the points in the battle for play-off spots.
On paper, the Scottish Premier should feature the customary stroll for Celtic (1-7) and Rangers (2-9) against Hibernian and Livingston respectively. That said, Celtic had a tough UEFA Cup trip to Stuttgart and are still without the prolific Henrik Larsson. Rangers have hardly been wiping the floor with the opposition of late and their price looks far from appealing given that they are away from Ibrox and Livingston are no mugs.
There looks to be better value on offer in the Scottish first division. There are three decent looking away wins in the form of St Johnstone (8-11), Ayr United (Evens) and Falkirk (8-11) at Alloa, Arbroath and Queen of the South respectively. As the odds suggest, it's a case of stragglers against high-fliers. It would be surprising if at least two from three away wins don't materialise from these games.
In the Scottish second, leaders Raith Rovers should return to winning ways at 8-11 at home to Dumbarton.
Rock-bottom East Stirling have been playing, and losing, almost every other day of late (or so it seems). Yet to win a home league game this season, the visit of Albion Rovers (4-6) looks unlikely to provide a change in fortune.
Looking to the continent, Atletico Bilbao at 4-7 look a solid bet to see off the seemingly doomed Recreativo Huelva. Real Madrid (4-5) will be looking to maintain the pressure on Real Sociedad with victory at Alaves, still reeling from a 6:0 trouncing at Deportivo La Coruna last weekend.
In Serie A, Adriano-inspired Parma (8-15) should be too strong for struggling Modena. AC Milan at 1-3 should take the points at home to Atalanta.
In the Bundesliga, 4-9 Borussia Dortmund will be looking to keep their play-off hopes on track with a win over improving Hansa Rostock. Runaway leaders Bayern Munich (8-11) will be expected to collect another three points in their trip to Energie Cottbus. It's easy to write off Bayer Leverkusen, but they could offer some value at 5-4 for a home win over Werder Bremen. It's worth noting that they have been resting players in the Champions League to boost their league survival hopes and they still have the bulk of last season's phenomenally successful squad to call upon.
Elsewhere, taking odds from the web, there are a few other attractive opportunities. The Dutch Eredivisie is often a league for picking a few "bankers" for accumulators. Ajax at 1-4 at home to Vitesse Arnhem and Feyenoord at