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O'Sullivan to wrap up eighth Masters title

The Masters gets under way at Alexandra Palace on Sunday with Ronnie O'Sullivan defending the title he has won a record-breaking seven times.

This prestigious invitational event involves the world's top 16 players in the rankings after the UK Championship, which means 2012 champion Neil Robertson misses out for the first time since 2006 despite his victory at the Scottish Open.

Five-time world champion O'Sullivan understandably starts as favourite after a season in which he won the UK Championship and Shanghai Masters, making it 31 career ranking titles. It may not be original, but O'Sullivan is our tip to win this tournament for an eighth time at 9/4.

The Rocket has won this event in three of the last four years and he begins the tournament on Tuesday against Marco Fu, the man he beat 6-4 in reaching last year's final.

O'Sullivan has an excellent record against the Hong Kong star over the last 10 years and he should have little difficulty in reaching the quarter-finals where he will meet the winner of the Mark Allen vs Luca Brecel match.

The Belgian Bullet is making his debut at the tournament and looks good value to beat Allen at 5/4 in their first-round match.

Brecel won his first ranking tournament in August when he defeated O'Sullivan 5-4 on his way to beating Shaun Murphy in the China Championship final.

Murphy looks the best of the options in the bottom half of the draw at 14/1. The Magician avenged his 2012 defeat by Robertson to win this event three years ago and his form suggests he could go all the way to the final on January 21.

The world number six won the Champion of Champions event in November, beating O'Sullivan 10-8 in the final, and he also has three runner-up finishes this season.

Murphy must overcome Ali Carter in a best-of-11 opener on Wednesday and if successful meets the winner of the Judd Trump vs Liang Wenbo match for a place in the semi-final.

Masters betting tips

Ronnie O'Sullivan to win the Masters @ 9/4 win only

Shaun Murphy to win the Masters @ 14/1 1/2 each way

Luca Brecel to beat Mark Allen in first round @ 5/4

Warren Barner
@warren_barner in Snooker