SPORTS BETTING: Green Bay pack punch for 49ers

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The Independent Online
Those who took this column's recommendation to back Green Bay for the Super Bowl (at 7-1) face a nervous time in front of the Teletext tonight as the Packers (now 11-4 chances) entertain the San Francisco 49ers, the only team still ahead of them in the betting.

The good news for Packer backers is the home side are firm favourites for tonight. Hills ask them to give up 61/2 points in order to quote both teams at 5-6, while Ladbrokes make it even-money the 49ers, 8-11 Green Bay, with the visitors allowed just a 31/2-point start.

The book has already closed on San Francisco winning the NFC West, while Green Bay are as short as 2-7 for the Central, but at stake tonight is more than mere psychological advantage in the post-season. The winners will become firm favourites to claim home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, which for Green Bay in particular would be a huge bonus. Neither the Californian 49ers nor the dome-based Dallas Cowboys would enjoy a trip to Wisconsin in the bitter dead of winter. It will be a huge incentive for the Packers, who can beat Coral's 51/2-point handicap at 5-6 and, in the process, advance to the head of the Super Bowl betting.

Manchester United are clear favourites at 11-10 to win the Premiership for the third time in four years after Saturday's 1-0 defeat of Liverpool. United are two points adrift of the new leaders Newcastle.

Both sides are in action in Europe this week: Newcastle travel to Hungary 24 hours before United make the trip they have been dreading all season, to Fenerbahce in Turkey.

PREMIERSHIP (William Hill): 11-10 Manchester United; 5-2 Liverpool, Newcastle; 14-1 Arsenal; 16-1 Chelsea; 40-1 bar.

SPORTS PERSONALITY OF THE YEAR (Hills): 5-4 Damon Hill; 7-4 Steve Redgrave; 2-1 Frankie Dettori; 16-1 Tim Henman; 33-1 Alan Shearer.

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