Flutter on football, and maybe make a mint on Murray

FOR those who like a bit of spread betting to enliven their sport, the first big event is England&rsquo;s World Cup qualifier against Croatia on Wednesday night, in which an England win will guarantee a journey to South Africa next year to see if Fabio Capello can succeed where countless others have failed. (The odds for that, of course, will be interesting to see.) <br /><br />As it&rsquo;s a game that most expect to be fairly uneventful, there are not that many spreads around, but there are some. For instance, extrabet is offering one on the time of the first goal &ndash; 35-38 minutes, and for the first England goal &ndash; 43-46 minutes. <br /><br />Sporting Index has an England goal minutes spread (ie, the total of all the minutes in which England score goals, so if they scored in the 60th and 70th, then the total would be 130). England have been free-scoring in previous games &ndash; against Holland goal minutes were 126, against Andorra they were 300, and they have scored 32 in the past 10 games. They have tended to score late, too, which could make this an attractive proposition. Optimists might also like the look of the Wayne Rooney goal minutes spread of 22-25 minutes, tempting if you think he can score twice. <br /><br />Far more interesting for many, perhaps, in these club-oriented times are the Champions League spreads. Extrabet has a winners index for the entire competition, with 60 points for the winner of the competition, 40 for the runner-up, 30 for semi-finalists and 20 for making the quarters. <br /><br />Barcelona lead the pack with 25-28. Interestingly, Chelsea are the second-favourites, with a spread of 21-24, something which might be looking a bit optimisitic now that the west London side have been banned from spending their masses of money in the transfer market. Should they lose players before Christmas and are unable to re-stock their squad in the winter transfer window, then progress to the semis might start looking a bit unrealistic. <br /><br />On the same spread as Chelsea are Real Madrid which, if you are a believer in the galactico system, might raise eyebrows &ndash; in any number of ways. Manchester United are 20-23, Arsenal 19-22 and Liverpool 18-21. <br /><br /><strong>ANYONE FOR TENNIS?<br /></strong>For those who prefer a spot of tennis, then extrabet has a similar index for the US Open. With 60 for the winner, 40 for the runner-up, 20 for losing semi-finalists and so on, Roger Federer has a spread of 36-39 points, with Andy Murray second favourite with 27-30 &ndash; maybe worth a patriotic punt, with his record over Federer.<br />&nbsp;<br />Interestingly, Sporting Index have Murray with a spread of 33-36 (on an index with the same numbers). Of course, selling Murray has the benefit that you are happy whatever happens. <br /><br />For those who want a bit of extra spice, Sporting also has a spread for Murray&rsquo;s longest rally, of 38-40 shots. Bear in mind that in Cincinatti recently, he had a 53-shot rally. Perhaps most interesting is Rafa Nadal on 18-21. If his dodgy knees are going to pack up, then it might be worth selling him and hoping they go early. On the other hand, if he is fit then he&rsquo;s likely to make the final and you could end up seriously in the money.