The last 16 of the UK Championship kicks off on Wednesday with the first half of the matches in the round taking place across what should be two exciting sessions of action at the Barbican Centre in York.
Every match from here on in is on one of the two TV tables so the intensity, drama and the quality should rise as the cream begin to come to the fore ahead of the culmination of the tournament at the weekend.
Ronnie O’Sullivan vs Jack Lisowski
The first of the matches in the last 16 sees the defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan continuing his title defence when he goes up against one of the form players this season in Jack Lisowski with a quarter final spot at stake for the winner.
O’Sullivan hasn’t looked fantastic this week but he has done enough to come through. If he wants to successfully defend his title then he is going to have to up his game. Lisowski has seen off a couple of solid opponents in the first three rounds with a blitz of scoring and putting pressure on his opposition from the start.
If Lisowski believes he can get the job done here I see absolutely no reason why he won’t do so given how well he is playing but we are likely to see the best of O’Sullivan here as he often raises his game when he takes on someone he respects as a danger. I wanted to take on the breaks markets here but bookies are taking no chances with the prices so I’m not getting involved here.
Stephen Maguire vs Mark Williams
On the other table in the afternoon session two former winners will be doing battle for a spot in the quarter finals when Stephen Maguire goes up against Mark Williams in what should be a compelling contest.
These two are no strangers to the latter stages of big events or each other so I’m expecting a pretty competitive contest in this one. I don’t think Maguire has played all that well this week but you have to give him credit for coming through this far especially as he beat Ali Carter in the previous round but I sense Williams is liking the job this week and fancies it and he is certainly getting better as the competition goes on.
I fancy Williams will come through this. I’ve been impressed with his last two performances and if he gets on top early he could power away to a pretty comfortable win despite both men being gritty fighters. Williams’ quality has that extra pep to it in my eyes. He can win with a bit to spare.
Mark Allen vs Neil Robertson
The pick of the last 16 matches is the main one in the evening session as Mark Allen and Neil Robertson meet in what is a repeat of the International Championship final from earlier in the campaign.
Allen won that match and looks to be in something of the form he showed in that tournament here but I’ve really liked Robertson this week. He was 3-0 to Thepchaiya Un-Nooh in the second round and then produced a burst of power scoring to win 6-3 and he had to score very well to beat a Graeme Dott who laid it all out to him in the last round.
Allen is producing the goods at the minute so this has all the hallmarks of being a fantastic last 16 match and one which should contain plenty of snooker. I think we are going to see more than 9.5 frames of action in this one.
Lu Ning vs Tom Ford
The match on the other table is probably going to go unnoticed given that two powerhouses are the centre of attention but for Lu Ning and Tom Ford there is the chance of making the quarter final of a Triple Crown event.
The stakes are massive here for two men who haven’t had the best of seasons it has to be said and while Ford is established on the tour whoever wins this and banks the £22,500 for doing so will have done themselves no harm whatsoever. With that in mind you get the feeling some nerves could be in play here and in turn anything could happen. This one is probably best left alone.
Back M.Williams (-1.5 frames) to beat S.Maguire for a 4/10 stake at 2.00 with Coral
WON – Back M.Allen vs N.Robertson – Over 9.5 frames for a 4/10 stake at 2.20 with William Hill
Back it here: