As the second round continues in Sheffield, Paul Krishnamurty previews two matches that appear one-sided on paper, but could prove closer than the odds suggest...
"Selby is famous for making hard work of opponents like this. 12 months ago en route to the title, the Jester from Leicester endured a mighty struggle at this stage, eventually prevailing over Sam Baird 13-11."
Back Stephen Maguire to beat Rory McLeod 13-7 1.5u @ 9.08/1
Back Stephen Maguire to beat Rory McLeod 13-8 1.5u @ 10.09/1
Back Stephen Maguire to beat Rory McLeod 13-9 1u @ 11.010/1
Back Stephen Maguire to beat Rory McLeod 13-10 1u @ 13.012/1
After producing one of the most stunning upsets in Crucible history, it would take a brave man to lay Rory Mcleod at very big odds in today's second round. If 'The Dentist' could expose the frailties of the pre-tournament favourite and number two seed Judd Trump, he must be confident of at least giving the world number 24 a tough test.
That first round match was, frankly, torturous to watch. Rory had a plan has served him well down the years - slow it down, keep things scrappy, get under his opponent's skin and in doing so, destroy his fluency. By falling into the trap, Trump demonstrated he still hasn't learnt the basics of matchplay. The standard in their second session was awful.
As anyone who has followed Maguire during his occasionally superb, yet mostly underachieving career will know, the Glaswegian is not the most patient. In an open game where high breaks are the norm, he can beat anyone in the world. When it gets scrappy, though, fluency deserts him and Maguire's standard has been known to drop to the level of a club player.
He's generally flattered to deceive in this event, twice getting within touching distance of the final only to blow it. Few would have given him a prayer this year coming off a poor season but in recent weeks, he's started to justify his 'On Fire' nickname and the draw has opened up nicely. After an impressive victory over Anthony McGill, he's now rated third best in the bottom half.
Against the weakest player left in the competition, Maguire really should progress but I couldn't consider taking outright odds of 1.152/13 or even back a resounding win via the handicap. Instead, my prediction is that he'll labour through by a middling margin. Backing a quartet of scores, ranging from 13-7 to 13-10, pays around 2.68/5.
Back Mark Selby to beat Xiao Guodong 13-8 1.5u @ 10.09/1
Back Mark Selby to beat Xiao Guodong 13-9 1.5u @ 11.010/1
Back Mark Selby to beat Xiao Guodong 13-10 1u @ 13.012/1
Back Mark Selby to beat Xiao Guodong 13-11 1u @ 15.014/1
Likewise, correct scores may be the way to play the Mark Selby v Xiao Guodong match. It would be a massive upset for the world number one to lose, but he is famous for making hard work of opponents like this. 12 months ago en route to the title, the Jester from Leicester endured a mighty struggle at this stage, eventually prevailing over Sam Baird 13-11.
Xiao is a similar standard and has enjoyed some great wins to get this far. He benefited from a below-par Ryan Day performance in the last round but, as in the three previous rounds, could do no more than win with plenty to spare. He's yet to win by a lesser margin than 10-4.
Unlike Selby's first-round opponent Fergal O'Brien, I expect Xiao to hold his own, at least for the first couple of sessions. Again, let's try a quartet of scores, this time ranging from 13-8 to 13-11. Combined, they pay around 3.02/1.
Watch every match of this year's World Snooker Championship on Betfair Live Video
Follow me on Twitter @paulmotty