European Masters Snooker Betting Preview: Two players to back from each quarter

Defending champion Kyren Wilson
Kyren Wilson was an impressive winner last year

The European Masters kicks off this morning from Nuremburg. Here's Paul Krishnamurty's preview and selections as he bids for another profitable campaign...

  • Wilson set for strong defence

  • Brecel can continue where he left off

  • Selby dangerous from easy draw

The European Masters is the first conventional ranking event of the season. By conventional, I am referring to the Championship League being played over a group format. That opener was won by Shaun Murphy, beating Mark Williams in the final.

Early season is ripe for shocks

So far, relatively predictable. However this very early stage of the season is always the likeliest to produce shocks, when everybody is fresh. This event has been played at different stages of the season, but it produced the biggest shock in snooker history in 2021, when Fan Zhengyi beat a string of elite opponents to triumph at odds in excess of 500/1.

Last season, the event moved to this early fixture and Kyren Wilson ran out a comfortable winner. It was his third win in Germany, amongst a career tally of five ranking titles.

Kyren did particularly well from a tricky draw but as defending champion, this year looks more straightforward. Si Jiahui and Hossein Vafaei are by far his toughest potential opponents before the last-eight, at which point he might face Shaun Murphy, at worst.

With the greatest respect to rising stars Jiahui and Vafaei, the market may have their measure for now, following last year's heroics. I expect Wilson to come through and trade much shorter than the 17.5 currently available on the exchange.

Murphy is the man to beat

Murphy will indeed be a tough nut to crack. He was the best player around in the second half of last season, has opened this term with a win, and faces mostly out of form or declining players prior to that potential meet with Wilson. Zhou Yuelong may be the danger.

Therefore, whilst my general plan here is to restrict stakes, almost half the entire outlay is on this first quarter and two strong title contenders.

Back outsiders in tough section

There are numerous potential contenders in section two, and that's the problem. Judd Trump, Mark Allen and Jack Lisowski lead the way but I'd give at least nine a chance. Instead, throw a couple of each-way darts at triple-figure odds.

Ben Woollaston is one of the game's underachievers, but could win an event of this stature. He has gone very well fresh previously, when finishing runner-up in the Championship League straight after the 2020 Covid lockdown, when everyone was rusty.

Thepchaiya Un-Nooh is another inconsistent character, but a world-beater on his day. He looked hungry for a return to contention last season and started this one really well, producing some excellent snooker in the Championship League and breezing through a couple of qualifiers.

Selby preferred to O'Sullivan

The third section should, on paper, be dominated by Ronnie O'Sullivan and Mark Selby. But can we really trust either to deliver so early in the season, in a minor event? Certainly not in Ronnie's case, given his failure to win anything bar two short-format invitationals last year.

Selby is however respected, as he has won this title previously and has a nice early draw. He so often struggles early in events but nothing looks problematic until the last-16, at which stage many seeds will be out.

Should Ronnie indeed underperform, the beneficiary could be David Gilbert. Already thought to the last-64, he should sweep past Reanne Evans and be a heavy favourite in the last-32. He's started the season fairly well in the qualifiers and Championship League, and remains more than capable of winning at this level.

Brecel may still be under-rated

The bottom section includes three heavyweights - Neil Robertson, Mark Williams and Luca Brecel. A good case could be made for each of them but, based on the draw and the odds, my choice is the reigning world champion.

Unlikely as it seemed before the event, given his previous Crucible record, Luca's breakthrough wasn't in the slightest bit flukey. He was always a great prospect and is now established among the elite. I think he'll go from strength to strength and, frankly, odds of 20.0 are slightly insulting.

He won't have to worry about facing Robertson or Williams until the quarters, provided either of them get there. That is no certainty from a very competitive mini-section. I'm taking them on with another former European Masters champion.

Jimmy Robertson won this five years ago at huge odds and has become a solid performer in the last couple of years. This column has backed him several times without success but we must persevere. 175/1 understates his ability.

*Follow Paul on Twitter @paulmotty

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