Defending champion Ronnie O'Sullivan features amongst a stellar field for this year's Champion of Champions in Coventry - read Richard Mann's preview here.
Ronnie O'Sullivan and Kyren Wilson were responsible for one of the highlights of last season when trading punches in a high-quality final at the Champions of Champions, one that eventually saw the former prevail 10-9 at the conclusion of a dramatic night at the Ricoh Arena.
Having led 6-3 after the first session, O'Sullivan had to withstand a brilliant comeback from Wilson, whose sustained barrage of big breaks saw him win four frames on the bounce and lead 9-8 before eventually losing in the deciding frame, The Rocket stepping up with an apparently nerveless match-winning clearance of 110 that defied belief given the magnitude of the situation and the state of the match.
That victory was to prove the spark O'Sullivan needed to ignite his campaign and he would soon be winning a record seventh UK Championship before claiming two more titles before the season was out.
O'Sullivan returns to Coventry 12 months on with his form looking very patchy, victory at the Shanghai Masters followed by a last-16 exit at the English Open and failure to qualify for the recently concluded China Open.
Still, events such as the Champions of Champions, with only a select number of participants and its one table set-up, have always been more to O'Sullivan's liking and an opening match against old friend Jimmy White will surely be an occasion he savours as much as the Coventry punters.
For White, this is highly likely to be one of his last appearances on terrestrial television so expect an electric atmosphere in the Ricoh Arena when the pair shake hands at 1pm on Thursday afternoon.
Should, as expected, O'Sullivan come through that one then John Higgins or Stuart Bingham will await, the Scot proving best of that pair when prevailing in their quarter-final clash at the World Open on Friday.
Higgins' solid start to the new campaign is an encouraging sign for the season ahead given the struggle and disillusionment he was enduring with his game only a year ago.
Defeated in each of the last three World Championship finals, the most recent at the hands of an inspired Judd Trump in April, Higgins has clearly time to move on from those disappointments but he will know that there was very little he could have done on the latest occasion, such was the brilliance of his opponent, and he has looked in really good touch so far this term.
He played well in China this last week and but for missed pink, might well have pulled off a memorable comeback against old foe Trump having fought back from 5-2 down to force a final-frame shootout in their enthralling semi-final on Saturday.
That Trump went on to lift the trophy the following day must give Higgins plenty of confidence and for all O'Sullivan boasts a brilliant record in this event - lifting the trophy three times in six years - he has so often found the Scot more than a match and as such, the disparity in the prices for either to win Group One looks far too big.
Even taking into account O'Sullivan's easier opening match against The Whirlwind, he is far too short at 4/9 given his mildly concerning recent form and Higgins, up against a Bingham whom he dispatched comfortably both in China recently and in Sheffield back in the spring, has to be the play at 4/1.
The long flight back from China probably isn't ideal, but he isn't alone there, and not being scheduled to play until Thursday ought to give him enough chance to recover.
Having made my case for Higgins to see off Bingham and O'Sullivan and reach the semi-finals, the 22/1 on offer for outright glory is certainly worth a small bet for all my old reservations about placing too much faith in the veteran this far out from his historically favoured events such as the Welsh Open and the World Championship do remain.
I certainly wouldn't discount the chances of 15/2 shot Mark Selby despite the recent English Open victor falling to follow up in China.
Selby again looked sharp until Bingham produced his best form of the season to prevail in their last-16 match, four centuries and a break of 97 leaving Selby with little chance to respond, and he will know his game remains in good shape.
An opening match against Yan Bingtao is no penalty kick but one which Selby will expect to come through and a potential meeting with Mark Allen on Tuesday evening looks another winnable tie, the Northern Irishman arriving in Coventry with his confidence dented having let big leads slip against Selby at the English Open and David Gilbert at the World Open.
Elsewhere, I wouldn't at all be surprised to see the dangerous Martin Gould give Neil Robertson a good workout in Monday afternoon's curtain raiser and 3/1 will certainly interest some.
However, there is a better bet to be struck on Wednesday with Thepchaiya Un-Nooh seriously underestimated against Wilson.
Thepchaiya had Wilson's number when the pair met in their World Open semi-final on Saturday, recovering from 4-1 down and 5-3 to progress to Sunday's final where he was far from disgraced in losing to Trump.
With his career still in its relative infancy, such experiences are sure to do Thepchaiya the power of good and despite taking his time to settle in the aforementioned match with Wilson, his vast reserves of natural ability were enough to see him through with breaks of 67 and 61 in the final two frames showcasing his scoring prowess.
For Wilson, it was to prove a big chance missed as he spurned a number of opportunities to finish off his rival, who was noticeably struggling through the early part of the match, and although he remains a deadly single-ball potter, his loose cue-ball control continues to hold him back despite its obvious improvements.
Despite his superior big-match experience, I thought it was Wilson who buckled under the pressure when Thepchaiya was the one entitled to wilt and it was a defeat that will have certainly hurt.
Wilson cut a dejected figure in his seat as Thepchaiya picked his pocket in those final two frames - the Kettering man having looked well-set in the balls in both - and he will need to live up to his nickname as The Warrior if he is to bounce back against the same opponent only a few days later.
Of course, a player with Wilson's fine record and someone who played his part in such a memorable final here last year is more than capable of doing so but the 13/8 for Thepchaiya to come out on top again is plain wrong and looks the best bet of the week at this stage.
Posted at 1930 BST on 03/11/19
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