Allen faces dangerous qualifier
No problems for Higgins
Perry to extend superb head-to-head
Of the five matches either starting or ongoing during Monday, I'm only recommending bets in two. A few words about the other three though, before we get to the bets.
Allen no certainty to progress
Mark Allen starts out against Fan Zhengyi at 10am in a fascinating match where I could see literally anything happening. Hence no bet.
Allen has been player of the season since losing five stones last summer. He's won three titles including a major. However, whilst I believe the weight loss will make all the difference and have included Allen among my outright picks, his dismal Crucible record is still a factor to consider. He is under some pressure.
Zhengyi is arguably the most inconsistent player on the circuit. He won the European Masters last season out of absolutely nowhere - it was the biggest shock winner in living memory.
However it was thoroughly deserved and involved beating several elite opponents including Ronnie O'Sullivan, with a very high standard. He also rocked up with no form at the Champion of Champions, beating Neil Robertson en route to the semis.
We already have live positions on the Mark Williams/Jimmy Robertson and Ding Junhui/Hossein Vafaei match from yesterday, so no need to add more.
Try correct score combo on Higgins
John Higgins launches his bid for a fifth title against David Grace in the afternoon. Although the Wizard of Wishaw has been well below his best all season, I can't see him stumbling against Grace, whom he beat on all three previous encounters.
Expect a typically professional performance and quite possibly some good form. Grace is a solid, consistent player with good matchplay skills. That's good enough to beat lower-ranked players but will offer little advantage against master strategist Higgins.
I'll go for 10-4, 10-5 and 10-6 in a correct score combo. Also add 10-6 to the daily double, listed below.
Daily double (pays £44.00 to a £0.50 stake)
John Higgins to win 10-6
Joe Perry to win 10-7
Today's nap is in the evening session. I always mention head-to-head records, because they are a very useful guide. See for example how Stuart Bingham maintained his remarkable 100% record over the similar standard David Gilbert in the first round.
Trust this strong head-to-head clue
Another stunning number is Joe Perry leading Robert Milkins 11-2. Granted, Perry has been superior throughout most of their careers, but not by a huge margin and he's never been the most consistent. At this precise moment, Milkins has the edge in ranking terms after a great year, but there really isn't much between them.
On those form/quality grounds, the betting is about right, with Milkins starting slight favourite at 1.9. However I am far from convinced that 'The Milkman' will bring his best form to the Crucible, when he hasn't previously. That head-to-head offers a clue which we should not ignore.
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