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Snooker: Selby needs to discover Marshall plan

The European Masters heads to the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes and the stars are out in force with the world's top six all in the line-up.

World number one Mark Selby is the defending champion, having lifted the prize when the tournament was last staged in September 2020 and he is 7/1 to retain his crown.

However, the Jester from Leicester has had a difficult time of things this season and only once from eight ranking event appearances this term has he gone beyond the third round.

Selby struggling for form

Selby finds himself 17th on the one-year ranking list and has plenty to prove after failing to qualify for the recent Players Championship event won by Neil Robertson.

The 38-year-old won his fourth World Championship title in May last year so can never be dismissed, although there may be safer propositions out there.

With £80,000 going to the winner, Selby will be fully focused on the challenge ahead, but his confidence has taken a knock this season and he has a qualifier to come through against Matthew Selt before reaching the main draw.

Luca Brecel, Zhou Yuelong and Ryan Day look the biggest obstacles in his quarter, so his draw doesn't look too bad and he is 4/1 to come through that section and reach the final.

Star-studded second quarter catches the eye

While Selby would be expected to come through his section of the draw if fully wound up, the second quarter is brimming with quality and is going to take some winning.

Neil Robertson, Kyren Wilson, Yan Bingtao, Barry Hawkins and David Gilbert are just some of the names involved in that section of the draw, making it a minefield for tipping.

Aussie ace Robertson is 11/8 to win that section and make the semi-finals after his recent title triumphs at The Masters and the Players Championship.

However, it won't be easy for him given the calibre of opposition and bettors may want to consider Wilson's chances. He is 7/2 to win the second quarter and 12/1 for the title.

The Warrior is a model of consistency having made at least the quarter-final stage in five of his 12 tournament appearances this season and an opening match against Jamie Jones should hold few concerns for him.

Victory there would see him tee up a second-round duel with either Aaron Hill or Fan Zhengyi, so a place in the last-16 looks at his mercy.

Trump tough to trust at present

Few can compete with Judd Trump at his brilliant best, but he has yet to scale those lofty heights this season and could again be vulnerable in MK.

The world number two lost 6-3 in the first round of the Players Championship to Ronnie O’Sullivan last time out and prior to that he was brushed aside 5-1 by Zhao Xintong in the second round of the German Masters.

In fact, Trump finds himself 16th on the one-year ranking list and he has yet to go beyond the quarter-final stage in nine ranking events this season.

He is 1/1 to win his quarter of the draw, but those odds look short enough given that section of the draw also includes the in-form Ricky Walden, Shaun Murphy or Anthony McGill.

Trump is 4/1 to claim the European Masters title, a trophy he won in 2016 and 2017, and kickstarts his tournament against veteran Michael Judge.

Noppon Saengkham, Liang Wenbo and Hossein Vafaei also line-up in Trump's quarter, so the Juddernaut is going to have to be at his best from the start.

Old rivals headline third quarter

Ronnie O'Sullivan and John Higgins have had some great battles down the years and they could be on course to clash again in the last eight.

Higgins has had the better of the argument with Ronnie in recent seasons and has won their last four encounters, making him a tempting outright proposition at 8/1.

The Wizard of Wishaw is 4/1 to successfully navigate his way through to the final, with The Rocket 11/4.

Higgins gets his tournament underway against Welshman Jamie Clarke, while O'Sullivan faces Nigel Bond in a qualifier. If The Rockets comes through that first clash he will be rewarded with a last-64 clash with Zhang Anda.

However, it is no two-horse race with Ali Carter, Jack Lisowski, Martin Gould and Tom Ford also involved in that section of the draw.

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