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Snooker: Big names ready for battle in Leicester

There's one last chance to qualify for the Winners Group of the Championship League and it promises to be a fantastic final showdown.

 

Graeme Dott, Zhao Xintong, Scott Donaldson, Stuart Bingham, Yan Bingtao and Liang Wenbo have already booked their places at the final stage and one spot remains up for grabs at Leicester's Morningside Arena.

There is plenty of prize money on offer and the big ticket is a place in the end-of-season Champion of Champions event for the overall winner. All matches are played over a best-of-five-frame distance in a round-robin format.

The top-four potters at the end of the league stage progress to the playoffs, which is made up of two semi-finals and a final.

Save the best for last

You could be forgiven for thinking that Group 7 was the winners section, given the quality in the field, and it promises to be a cracking competition.

Legends Ronnie O'Sullivan and John Higgins head the pool and they are joined by another former world champion in Neil Robertson.

Robertson is 3/1 and O'Sullivan 3/1 for the Group, though Robbo's participation is in doubt due to illness. He is due to play Ali Carter on Tuesday morning.

World Championship finalists Kyren Wilson - 5/1 to top the group - and Ding Junhui, who is 8/1, are also in their field and two-time Championship League winner Martin Gould completes the line-up.

Winner could double up

Clearly, the short-format Champions League matches can throw up some unexpected results. However, the victor in Group 7 will surely have a big chance of winning the competition outright.

World number 13 Stuart Bingham is the highest-ranked player that has progressed to the finals stage and the likes of O'Sullivan, Higgins and Robertson will no doubt have their eyes on the Championship League prize.

Yan Bingtao is 7/2 in the Championship League betting, but that could well change once we know who progresses from this high-power group.

What can we expect from Group 7?

The simple answer is high-quality snooker. With so much talent in the section, it's hard to see how we won't be treated to some cracking action. There are two avenues into this event. O'Sullivan, Higgins, Carter, Ding and Gould go into the event fresh after missing last week's German Masters, while Wilson will have table time under his belt after competing in Berlin.

'The Rocket' is still a brilliant performer on his day and at this stage of his his career, his game seems better suited to these quick-fire matches. Higgins has been playing as well as ever over the last 18 months and the 'Wizard of Wishaw' made four major finals last year. Robertson was a superb winner of the Masters earlier this month and the Australian will be a dangerous opponent for anyone if he turns out.

You can guarantee a good effort from Wilson and Carter can mix it with the best when on-song.

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Ding has the most to prove in the field and it will be interesting to see if the Chinese Sensation can get anywhere near his brilliant best.

Gould is likely to be seen as the weakest competitor in the field, but that would underestimate the 'Pinner Potter'. Gould is a two-time winner of this event and he has the break-building talents to compete with snooker's top cuemen. Therefore he could outperform his 14/1 odds in the group.

In terms of betting interest, it could pay to take on Ding. 'Enter The Dragon' has played in only two ranking events this season and they were both disappointing efforts.

Carter looks fair value at 6/5 to see off the Chinese cueman. 'The Captain' has been playing a little better than his results suggest this season and he has plenty of match practice in his favour.

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