IT'S Scottish Cup weekend north of the border and the good news is most of the big guns will field full-strength teams.
That should make predicting winners easier but with the likes of Celtic, Rangers, Motherwell, Hamilton, Dundee Utd and Inverness all short prices it's all about hunting down value.
I'll fully preview the Rangers v Cowdenbeath and Stranraer v Celtic ties tomorrow and Scottish bookies McBookie are offering 8-1 there will be an Old Firm Scottish Cup Final. They make Celtic red-hot 6-5 favourites to lift the trophy in May while Rangers and Aberdeen are joint second favourites at 10-1 with Inverness Caley Thistle are 14-1 to retain the cup.
McBookie spokesman Paul Petrie said: “Rangers are a completely different team under Mark Warburton this season and a lot of fans are confident they can have a good cup run. However, as St Johnstone proved in the League Cup the step up to playing Premiership teams won’t be easy. “
The firm is offering 40-1 for an Edinburgh derby final or 66-1 for an all-Dundee affair.
Biggest tie today is Hearts v Aberdeen and it should be a cracker. The Dons have won both league games so the Jambos will be desperate for revenge.
The last three meetings in Gorgie have seen both score and I’m on again at 19-20 with Coral. Aberdeen were convincing 3-1 winners at Tynecastle in the league and if forced to pick a result here I'd go against the Jambos.
The Saints game and Dundee v Falkirk were subject to morning inspections and while the Perth pitch has passed Dens is a faller.
Dundee United are another Premiership side on shaky ground at Airdrie and will need to be on their A game to win. Mixu Paatelainen’s men are 4-11 at Skybet while the Diamonds are 11-4 at bet365 not to lose.
Ross County are enjoying a fine season but haven’t won a Scottish Cup tie since January 2012. With strikers Craig Curran and Liam Boyce out that trend could continue at Dunfermline although the Pars have defensive problems with up to four backline men out although new boy Brad McKay is available.
Jason Cummings hit the only goal as Hibs beat Raith 1-0 last week. Cummings to net in an away win pays 6-4 at William Hill and the hitman, who is being chased by a host of English Championship sides, has hit the target in his last three outings against Rovers.
There shouldn't be any problem for Hamilton at Annan or holders Inverness at Stirling.
So what of the non-league teams? Cove have the toughest test at Motherwell whose last two ties at home to lower-league sides have finished 4-0 and 6-0. Well to win with four or more match goals scored pays 11-10 at William Hill.
The last surviving junior side Linlithgow Rose will be well supported at home to League One Forfar. Rose are a best 15-4 at Coral and while the surroundings will favour them new Loons boss Gary Bollan will have his players fired up to progress to the last 16 and possibly set up a money-spinning tie. Forfar are 3-4 at Paddy Power.
One Lowland League side will progress but it won't be today as East Kilbride v Lothian Thistle has been postponed.
Bets to Consider
Hearts v Aberdeen btts
Cumming to score/Hibs win
Motherwell and 4+ match goals