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World Championship: 12 contenders to win Crucible title

The 2018 World Snooker Championship gets under way this weekend when Mark Selby will defend the title he has won for the last two years.

It promises to be another spectacular tournament at The Crucible which will stage the world's greatest players competing for the biggest prize in front of the TV cameras.

Take a look at our guide below which highlights those players who can mount a challenge in Sheffield, their tournament form and odds. You can also place your snooker bets inside the preview, so let's check out the runners and riders.

Ronnie O'Sullivan

Odds: 13/5

Appearances: 25

Best performance: Winner 2001, 2004, 2008, 2012, 2013

Last five appearances: QF-R2-QF-F-W

O'Sullivan is one of the greatest players of the modern era and needs just one more title to join Steve Davis and Ray Reardon in winning the World Championship six times.

The Rocket won the UK Championship for a joint record sixth time in December to ensure he has won at least one major in the last seven years and he heads to Sheffield as the favourite in the world snooker odds.

If his mind is focused few will be able to live with the 42-year-old Essex star, who will become the first player to earn £1million in a season if he reaches the final.

Ronnie O'Sullivan to win World Championship @ 13/5

Mark Selby

Odds: 10/3

Appearances: 13

Best performance: Winner 2014, 2016, 2017

Last five appearances: W-W-R2-W-R2

Selby heads to Sheffield looking to become the first player since Stephen Hendry in 1994 to win the tournament three years in a row.

The three-time champion has two titles to his name from the 2017/8 season; the International Championship which he won for the second time with a 10-7 victory over Mark Allen in China, as well as the China Open.

The Jester is a two-time UK Championship winner and has won the Masters three times, so his credentials at the big tournaments cannot be questioned. Has an excellent chance.

Mark Selby to win World Championship @ 10/3

Judd Trump

Odds: 7/1

Appearances: 8

Best performance: Runner-up 2011

Last five appearances: R1-R2-SF-QF-SF

The 28-year-old from Bristol met John Higgins in the 2011 final in just his second appearance at The Crucible, taking a 10-7 lead after the second session. The scores were tied at 14-14, but the Scot pulled away by taking four of the last five frames for an 18-15 victory.

Trump has reached the last four on two occasions since then, coming back from 16-14 down in 2015 to force a final-frame decider against Stuart Bingham, who took on an audacious plant to reach the final.

His only major triumph came in 2013 when he beat Neil Robertson 10-7 to win the UK Championship. Trump is ranked fourth in the world and cannot be discounted.

Judd Trump to win World Championship @ 7/1

John Higgins

Odds: 10/1

Appearances: 23

Best performance: Winner 1998, 2007, 2009, 2011

Last five appearances: F-QF-R2-R1-R1

The four-time world champion continues to challenge the young guns at the age of 42 and last year surpassed Davis' number of ranking titles with his 29th at the Indian Open.

Twelve months ago, the Wizard of Wishaw went toe to toe with Selby in his sixth World Championship final 10 years after they met in a title decider at The Crucible. Higgins looked on course for a fifth victory after taking a 10-4 lead but he lost 12 of the next 14 frames in an 18-15 defeat.

The gritty Scot has a chance and at snooker World Championship odds of 10/1 is well priced to go on a run in Sheffield.

John Higgins to win the World Championship @ 10/1

Ding Junhui

Odds: 14/1

Appearances: 11

Best performance: Runner-up 2016

Last five appearances: SF-F-QF-R1-QF

The two-time UK Championship winner became the first Asian player to reach the final at The Crucible in 2016, an achievement made even more special by the fact he had to qualify for the tournament.

Ding lost 18-14 to Selby and the players met again in a closely-contested and high-quality semi-final last year which the Leicester man won 17-15.

With four quarter-final appearances in the last five, Ding is clearly at home inside the Sheffield theatre, but he will need to recapture his form which dipped after winning his 13th ranking title at the World Open in his native country in September.

Ding Junjui to win the World Championship @ 14/1

Neil Robertson

Odds: 16/1

Appearances: 13

Best performance: Winner 2010

Last five appearances: R2-R1-QF-SF-R1

The 2010 champion returned to form in December when he won his 13th ranking event with a magnificent fightback from 8-4 down to beat Cao Yupeng 9-8 in the final of the Scottish Open.

The Australian is one of just 10 players to have won the Triple Crown of the World Championship, the UK Championship and the Masters, the last of which came in York three years ago. Performed brilliantly to win the invitational Hong Kong Masters in July, defeating Selby and Marco Fu before winning four frames in a row to beat O'Sullivan 6-3 in the final.

At 16/1, the 36-year-old left-hander should certainly be considered as a good snooker bet for a second world title.

Neil Robertson to win World Championship @ 16/1

Mark Williams

Odds: 20/1

Appearances: 19

Best performance: Winner 2000, 2003

Last five appearances: QF-R1-R1-R2-SF

The Welsh Potting Machine ended a six-year ranking title drought by winning the Northern Ireland Open in November which he followed in February with another, the German Masters where he trounced Graeme Dott 9-1 in the final.

It's been 15 years since Williams won the last of his two world titles and he also holds the honour of being one of just three players to win the Triple Crown in the same season.

A keen poker player, Williams looks a gamble at world snooker betting odds of 20/1, but if he gets his eye in and starts to build the breaks for which he is renowned he could go deep into the tournament.

Mark Williams to win World Championship @ 20/1

Shaun Murphy

Odds: 25/1

Appearances: 15

Best performance: Winner 2005

Last five appearances: R1-R2-F-QF-QF

The 2005 champion and three-time finalist is one of 10 players to have won all three Triple Crown trophies at least once, but he heads into this year's tournament with a poor recent record after second and first-round exits in his last two visits to Sheffield.

However, The Magician has plenty of tricks up his sleeve as he displayed in beating O'Sullivan 10-8 to win the non-ranking Champion of Champions in November although the tables were turned a month later when The Rocket beat Murphy in the UK Championship final.

It was only three years ago that Murphy appeared in his third World Championship final and there is no reason why he cannot reach that stage again.

Shaun Murphy to win World Championship @ 25/1

Barry Hawkins

Odds: 25/1

Appearances: 12

Best performance: Runner-up 2013

Last five appearances: SF-QF-SF-SF-F

For a player that has been inside the world's top 32 for 12 successive seasons it may come as a surprise that The Hawk has never won one of snooker's three majors, but his record in Sheffield in the last five years is exceptional.

Hawkins lost to O'Sullivan in the 2013 final and has reached the last four on three occasions since then, in addition to a quarter-final appearance two years ago.

If you're looking for an each-way tip in the snooker betting, the 2017 World Grand Prix champion fits the bill.

Barry Hawkins to win World Championship @ 25/1

Mark Allen

Odds: 33/1

Appearances: 11

Best performance: Semi-final 2009

Last five appearances: R2-R2-R2-R2-R1

The Northern Irishman has not quite hit the heights of 2009 when he reached the semi-finals which he followed in the next two years with back-to-back appearances in the last eight.

Allen is an outspoken player and has had his troubles in the past but is showing signs of getting back to his best form at the right time after beating O'Sullivan on his way to winning the Masters in January.

Despite failing to get beyond the second round in the last six years, that maiden Triple Crown trophy is a sign that 2018 could be the year for The Pistol at a big price.

Mark Allen to win the World Championship @ 33/1

Kyren Wilson

Odds: 33/1

Appearances: 3

Best performance: Quarter-finals 2016, 2017

Last five appearances: QF-QF-R1

The 26-year-old from Kettering has emerged as a major talent in the last few years and despite making only three appearances at the World Championship is already a two-time quarter-finalist.

Won his only ranking event at the Shanghai Masters in 2016, but has made three finals this season, including the prestigious Masters in January when he broke down in tears after losing to Allen in the showpiece.

Two years ago, Wilson and Anthony Hamilton set a record of six consecutive centuries during their China Open qualifier. Looks to have a big future.

Kyren Wilson to win World Championship @ 33/1

Marco Fu

Odds: 100/1

Appearances: 17

Best performance: Semi-finals 2006, 2016

Last five appearances: QF-SF-R2-R2-R2

The Hong Kong star is another forty-something enjoying a late renaissance, reaching a career-high world ranking of fifth last year following his Scottish Open triumph.

In snooker betting terms, Fu looks like a decent each-way prospect rather than a champion, but he followed up his semi-final appearance two years ago with a place in the last eight in 2017 having failed to get beyond the second round in the nine previous seasons.

Six quarter-finals or better in his last 10 appearances at the UK Championship prove he is a player for the big occasion and unfazed by the TV cameras, but does he have what it takes to land the big one?

Marco Fu to win the World Championship @ 100/1

Warren Barner
@warren_barner in Snooker