RIGHT, I'm doing it again. I'm breaking one of my golden rules by picking a side playing early today.
However, I have two reasons for doing so. Firstly, it's a tough looking card and there are few teams of the “banker” variety. And secondly my choice is Rangers and the Scottish champions look in great shape for their live TV lunchtime showdown at Hearts.
Any suggestions Rangers will be tired after their Champions League exploits are likely to be way off the mark. The Ibrox men should be boosted for their visit to Tynecastle after their first European win in 13 outings. Walter Smith's men remain unbeaten in all competitions this season after a 1-0 defeat of Bursaspor and are also lifted by the return of Croat striker Nikica Jelavic who is ineligible in Europe.
Rangers are a best 4-6 with bet365 and that looks fairly attractive against a side yet to win at home this season. Unusually Hearts have been better on their travels and with boss Jim Jefferies still without key defender Marius Zaliukas and the injured Lee Wallace his men could struggle to contain the leaders.
I'm staying in Scotland for pick No.2 and going down to the First Division for a look at Falkirk. They face shocktroops Cowdenbeath who are sitting fourth in the table after coming up from the Second Division. The Fifers were widely expected to be cannon fodder after losing some of their best players to St Mirren but have surprised sides such as Partick Thistle and last week Dundee. However, an already wafer-thin squad is today missing five players including key defender John Armstrong. So Falkirk, who'll be without only striker Tam McManus, should be too strong at home and are 4-7 with William Hill and Ladbrokes.
I'm adding unbeaten Stranraer from the Third Division to make it a Scottish treble. The Blues have grown in confidence and after seven games unbeaten should see off a Montrose outfit with no points on their travels and missing seven players. Stranraer should win with plenty to spare and are a best 8-11 at bet365.
The EPL looks particularly tough to call with loads of games that could go either way. That's great for bookies but not for punters so I'll give it a miss.
My first side from south of the border are Ipswich who face a Leeds side smarting from their midweek 6-4 defeat at home to Preston. Leeds led 4-1 before caving in and a couple of weeks ago crashed 5-2 at Barnsley so there are serious questions to be asked about the defence. Roy Keane's Ipswich on the other hand have developed a mean streak with just eight goals conceded this season. They are flying high just two points off second and I fancy them at 11-10 with bodog.
Finally, I'm on Lee Clark's Huddersfield who have been blowing hot and cold but mainly hot at home. They're a cracking side to watch but have drawn blanks in their last two games at Rochdale and Swindon. However, they're back on terra firm and a home clash against Bristol Rovers should bring about a change in fortunes. Huddersfiield have netted nine in their last three home games and should add another few to that tally. They are a best 8-13 with firms such as William Hill and Ladbrokes.
FIVE TO FOLLOW
- Perm any 4 and all 5 (6 bets)