The league takes a break this weekend as the FA Cup becomes the priority (or an unwanted distraction) for the nation’s top teams.
Leeds United travel to Arsenal on Saturday lunchtime with Simon Grayson’s side hoping to repeat their third round heroics of 2010. Leeds are a better side then they were a year ago when they defeated Manchester United at this stage, and are 12/1 to secure another Cup shock.
Stevenage are 11/2 to see off visitors Newcastle in Saturday’s late kick-off whilst Sven Goran Eriksson’s Leicester City are 5/1 to get one over the Swede’s former side, Manchester City.
Stevenage v Newcastle
Leicester v Man City
Manchester United host struggling Liverpool on Sunday lunchtime and are 8/13 to prevail. Sir Alex Ferguson is likely to ring the changes with a league match against Spurs on the horizon, and so Liverpool could sneak a draw at 14/5.
It’s also the third round of the Scottish Cup this weekend. Berwick Rangers caused one of the biggest giant-killings in Scottish football history when they knocked Rangers out of the Cup in 1967 and the Borderers are 18/1 to beat Celtic at Shielfield Park.
After the excitement of The Ashes, this weekend’s Test cricket comes from another Southern hemisphere location. New Zealand are good value at 11/8 to see off a wandering and homeless Pakistan in Hamilton.
Elsewhere, after their excellent Test series, South Africa face India in a Twenty20 international in Durban.
After the bizarre spectacle of watching Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal launch the 2011 ATP Tour season by playing ankle deep in water on a floating tennis court the season is now under way in Doha. The world’s two leading players are clear favourites for the Qatar Open with Nadal available at 6/5 and Federer at 7/5.
Robin Soderling is the favourite to take the Brisbane International title with big names falling in both the men’s and women’s events. Fernando Verdasco and Sam Stosur have already been beaten by lower ranked opponents leaving Marion Bartoli as the highest ranked woman left in the draw.
After a three week break over Christmas, the European Tour resumes this week with a strong local field at the Africa Open. 2009 champion Retief Goosen is the 5/1 favourite whilst fellow South African and reigning champion Charl Schwartzel is an 11/2 chance.
Last season’s Rookie of the Year, Chris Wood, is worth watching at 35/1 although it may pay to take a watching brief as a clutch of new Tour players look to impress.
The Hyundai Tournament of Champions features winners from last seasons’ PGA Tour and there’s a strong field in action. Geoff Ogilvy is the 15/2 favourite whilst Ernie Els may be good value at 8/1 after his win at the South African Open before Christmas. Graeme McDowell is the 12/1 third favourite whilst Ian Poulter is 16/1.
Munster consolidated their strong position at the head of the Magners League last weekend with a 35-10 victory over Ulster and the 8/5 tournament favourites have a straightforward looking home tie against Glasgow this Saturday. Third place Leinster appear to be their most likely challengers although they face a tricky tie against fourth place Ospreys on Friday evening. The Scarlets travel to Edinburgh whilst the Cardiff Blues play Aironi Rugby.
Aviva Premiership leaders Northampton suffered a surprise home defeat by Harlequins last weekend which meant that Leicester Tigers leapfrogged the Saints into top spot. The pair meet at Welford Road on Saturday in a mouthwatering encounter which the home side might just edge.
London Irish’s tumble down the table continued after their last gasp defeat to Bath and they face a difficult away tie at third place Saracens on Sunday. Elsewhere, Harlequins play Wasps and Gloucester host Exeter.
The Welsh National (2.00pm) finally goes ahead at Chepstow this Saturday and the race, as ever, features a large, competitive field. Synchronized is the 5/1 favourite with Maktu a 7/1 chance and Dance Island available at 10/1.
Chepstow also hosts the Grade 1 Finale Juvenile Hurdle whilst there is also a grade 1 race – the Tolworth Hurdle – at Sandown.
Elsewhere there is racing from Sedgefield, Lingfield Park and Wincanton.
The BDO World Championships concludes this Sunday at the Lakeside. It has been an unpredictable tournament with seven seeded players and 2009 champion Ted Hankey all being eliminated in the opening round.
Scott Waites looks a strong 6/4 favourite to lift his first world title with last year’s champion Martin Adams a 15/8 shot.