The 2016 Coral Northern Ireland Open kicks off today in Belfast and we’ve had a look at some of the key contenders for the Alex Higgins Trophy.
With 128 of the world’s best players in the field, we’re set for a dramatic seven days. However, it also means there is plenty of value to be had if you can pick out the victor…
Ronnie O’Sullivan – Official Coral Odds: 3-1
O’Sullivan has been installed as favourite and although by his standards the five-time World Champion has had a slow start to the season, he’s already appeared in two finals. He reached the showpiece match at the European Masters in Bucharest, before letting an 8-6 lead slip against Judd Trump. The Rocket was then halted by early exits at the English Open and International Championship. He recaptured his form at the Champion of Champions in Coventry. O’Sullivan extended a three year undefeated streak at the event with defeats of Robin Hull, Martin Gould and Mark Allen, before losing out in a classic final against John Higgins. Can anyone stop the Rocket this week?
Ding Junhui – Official Coral Odds: 6-1
Ding has already picked up a world title this year, at the Six Red World Championship in Thailand. He survived an early scare against Scott Donaldson at the Shanghai Masters, before playing brilliantly to win a second piece of silverware for the season. Ding made eight breaks over 50 in the final against Mark Selby and won 10-6. The Dragon then reached a second consecutive final on home soil at the International Championship in Daqing. However, Selby had his revenge with a crushing 10-1 win. The 12-time ranking event winner reached last week’s semi-final stage at the Champion of Champions and will take some beating in Belfast. Can he pick up his first ranking title in Britain since the 2012 Welsh Open?
John Higgins – Official Coral Odds: 8-1
The four-time World Champion is enjoying a red hot streak and a return to his best form after back to back wins. Higgins made a sensational three centuries in a row from 7-7 against Stuart Bingham to win the inaugural China Championship with a 10-7 victory. Last week in Coventry the Wizard of Wishaw once again produced sparkling snooker on a run to the final. Defeats of Shaun Murphy, Judd Trump and Ding Junhui set up a mouth-watering encounter with Ronnie O’Sullivan. The match between two all-time greats lived up to the billing and Higgins claimed a 10-7 win. The Scot will have to extend his eight match winning streak to 15 if he wants to secure a third consecutive title in Belfast.
Shaun Murphy – Official Coral Odds: 10-1
Murphy has been showing signs of finding his best snooker in 2016/17, but is yet to claim his first silverware of the season. He ran into an inspired Stuart Bingham in the semi-finals of the China Championship and was edged out 9-8. The Magician produced a spellbinding 147 in qualifying for the European Masters against Allan Taylor. Although, he lost out to eventual champion John Higgins at the last week’s Champion of Champions there could be value in the 2005 World Champion at 10-1.
Mark Allen – Official Coral Odds: 12-1
The Antrim potter is set for a raucous home backing in Belfast. He faces Mark Joyce in the first round. A player that he has struggled against in the past, losing five of their last six meetings. However, Allen has played some fantastic snooker over the last few weeks. He’s enjoyed two 6-5 wins over world number one and World Champion Mark Selby at the China Championship and Champion of Champions. Can the Northern Irish number one take home the title on home turf?
Keep an eye out as odds are subject to change throughout the event.