Ronnie O’Sullivan –
If O’Sullivan is at his best for the duration of the tournament, Steve Davis’ record of six UK Championship titles is in severe danger.
The five-time champion is perhaps in the form of his career, winning two of the last four ranking events – one in England, one in China – and coming within a whisker of a sensational comeback against Shaun Murphy in the Champion of Champions final.
That he won last season’s Masters, and was only stopped by an inspired Mark Selby in the final of this competition, indicates that the biggest titles remain comfortably within his reach.
If anybody beats him in York, they will likely become favourite for the tournament.
Mark Selby –
It probably does Selby a disservice that he is not considered the man to stop in York.
Were it not for O’Sullivan’s golden form, he would be.
Despite a stuttering season to date, the world No.1, world champion and UK champion still claimed the biggest title of the campaign so far: the International Championship – a further reminder of how he raises his game for the elite events.
After a manic schedule through October and November, Selby took last week’s Northern Irish Open off to focus on York, so should be fresh, too.
He and O’Sullivan have not met competitively since last year’s final. Who’s ruling out a repeat?
John Higgins –
It may appear that Higgins comes into this tournament in patchy form.
The three-time UK Champion has, however, run into a rampant O’Sullivan in three of his last five major events, and claimed his 29th career ranking title in India in September.
And the 42-year-old’s big-match experience is, evidently, better than most.
Not many gave him a hope heading into last season’s World Championship, but a run to the final at the Crucible suggested that further Triple Crown titles are not out of the question.
Shaun Murphy –
Murphy is in good form, and represents fantastic value compared to several of his peers.
Beating O’Sullivan in the Champion of Champions final was a reminder that he belongs in the game’s elite bracket of players, while his pedigree in this competition is good.
One title, one final and three semi-finals – including this time last year – suggest that he has the game to go the distance in the next fortnight.
Luca Brecel –
It is a matter of time until Brecel breaks through at a major event.
The Belgian has dazzled this season, winning his first ranking title in China with swagger and skill belying his years.
He has since whitewashed Judd Trump at the Champion Of Champions, before also knocking out Mark Selby, and lost just four frames in four matches in reaching the Shanghai Masters quarter-finals a fortnight ago.
The world No.13 is electric, and at this price, is well worth gambling on for a good run in York.