Paul Krishnamurty previews today's last-16 matches from York, where Ronnie O'Sullivan, Mark Selby and Ding Junhui are in action...
"This is Maguire's 16th consecutive last-16 appearance in the UK Championship and he's reached the quarters in nine of the last 12...
The Scot found some excellent form in the last round."
Ronnie O'Sullivan continues his bid for a third consecutive (and eighth, overall) UK Championship title today. His task has already been made considerably easier by the shock exits of Judd Trump and, last night, Neil Robertson.
He faces an old rival in Ding Junhui, who defied my dismissive comments in the last round with a spate of high breaks. One swallow doesn't make a summer - Ding isn't back to his best, or the form that enabled him to beat O'Sullivan in the 2017 Crucible quarter-finals 13-10.
Ronnie to stay focused against respected rival
Ronnie has won all three matches since and it is hard to see anything else today. In contrast to many, even most, opponents, he truly respects Ding's game. I expect a focused performance and comfortable win. Back O'Sullivan to win 6-2 or better, via the 3.5 Frame Handicap.
His main threat will probably come from Mark Selby now. The Jester was far from impressive in the last round and will need to step up on that level against Matthew Stevens. However I wouldn't over-react - underperforming in early rounds against lesser opposition is Selby's trademark.
Surprisingly when these two met in Northern Ireland last month, it was their first match in 12 years. Selby ran out a 4-1 winner as expected and, while Matthew's improved form warrants respect, should do so again. Try 6-3 and 6-4 - the former is currently boosted to 5/1 on the Sportsbook.
Maguire to reach the latter stages again
Stephen Maguire and Michael White have both very much stepped up their efforts this week. The latter had been in abysmal form so this last-16 appearance has come out of nowhere. I doubt the Welshman will go any further.
Perennial underachiever Maguire is easy to criticise and can be the most frustrating to watch. Nevertheless he is consistent in majors - this is his 16th consecutive last-16 appearance in the UK Championship and he's reached the quarters in nine of the last 12.
The Scot found some excellent form in the last round with four eighty-plus breaks against Graeme Dott. I'm backing even money he gets four half-centuries tonight, and a correct-score combo on 6-3, 6-4.