We will find out who Neil Robertson will face in the final of the Players Championship on Sunday when the second semi-final of the tournament takes place in the Guild Hall in Preston on Saturday evening.
Top seed Mark Allen takes on Ronnie O’Sullivan for the right to go up against the Australian and have the chance of banking the £125,000 first prize on Sunday. We saw an excellent first semi-final and should get a belter here too.
The number one seed has lived up to that ranking this week by coming through the draw quite nicely. He hasn’t been perfect or flawless or anything like that but considering where he was mentally and with his game in the World Grand Prix it has been a marked improvement, and you get the impression with the work he is putting in, he is only going to improve over the coming weeks.
Allen has generally scored pretty well when he has been given the chances and he’ll know that is a pre-requisite here if he is going to make the final. What I really liked about him was when Stuart Bingham was powering clear of him in the quarter final, he did not panic, he believed in himself and turned the match around nicely to take his place in this contest.
You would have to say nobody has hard a harder route to the semi-final than Ronnie O’Sullivan. His quest began against the extremely competent Barry Hawkins and then he had to take on a fellow all-time legend in the form of John Higgins. He came through both matches and looked decent enough without ever being in tip top form but you know that now he has got his teeth into the tournament he will be looking to win it.
O’Sullivan’s long game has been a bit patchy in this tournament. There were a couple of long pots against Higgins which missed by miles but when he is in the balls he looks as good as ever. An interesting footnote will be whether O’Sullivan looks to convert centuries in this match. He jovially hinted he doesn’t want the 1000 this week so it might be that he jacks a few breaks in once the frame is won.
These two men have met on eight previous occasions with O’Sullivan only holding a 5-3 lead which represents a very good record on Allen’s behalf. O’Sullivan won their most recent meeting in the final of the UK Championship but prior to that Allen gave him a good going over in The Masters on his way to the title there. O’Sullivan won their only previous semi-final which was in the 2016 Champion of Champions. O’Sullivan leads on the frame score but it is only 45-39 so Allen certainly isn’t disgraced by any means.
Mark Allen lost the UK Championship final earlier this season 10-6 but he managed to fire in the highest break in that match with a 105 and that was the second time in succession that the man from Northern Ireland hit the highest break in meetings between these two men. At 6/4 I think he is value to make the highest break here too.
I don’t know if O’Sullivan is serious about wanting to get to his centuries in Shanghai, I suspect he isn’t but he hasn’t been completely firing this week and has a high break of 116. That is higher than Allen’s 108 but clearly there isn’t much between the two in that department. Allen should raise his game with little to lose here and if he can get in early in a frame he could deliver the top break.
Back M.Allen Highest Break for a 4/10 stake at 2.50 with Betway