Players Championship free betting tips: Ronne O'Sullivan v John Higgins

John Higgins

Ronnie O'Sullivan and John Higgins will clash in the quarter-finals of the Coral Players Championship in Preston on Friday and Richard Mann is expecting a close battle.

Recommended bets: Players Championship quarter-finals

2pts John Higgins to beat Ronnie O'Sullivan at 9/4

There is little doubt that Ronnie O'Sullivan and John Higgins are two of the greatest snooker players to ever grace the sport and like so many times before, when they clash in Preston on Friday afternoon, a packed house and an engrossing watch can be expected.

O'Sullivan rightly sits at the top of the snooker tree, his UK Championship success in December a record 19th Triple Crown success and one that firmly established him as the most decorated snooker player of all time.

Nevertheless, Higgins isn't too far behind, four World Championship titles and three more runner-up finishes in Sheffield the centrepiece of a career that has yielded 30 ranking titles.

Following another bruising final defeat in Sheffield last May, his second in consecutive years, Higgins has endured a miserable season but there have been signs more recently that the World Championship hangover is close to being cleared.

A promising run in the Welsh Open recently was followed by a last-four finish at the Indian Open last week and he kicked off his Coral Players Championship bid with a 6-4 defeat of Mark Selby on Wednesday.

The latter was again below his best but it was typical Higgins in some respects, breaks of 68, 58, 58 and 68 combined with rock-solid match play snooker as he shut Selby out to win three frames on the bounce and close out the match having fallen behind at 4-3 at one stage.

With Sheffield now firmly on the horizon again, Higgins looks to be coming to the boil nicely and he is too big at 9/4 to take down O'Sullivan.

The Rocket might just be feeling the effects of a brilliant start to the season that included wins at the Shanghai Masters, Champion of Champions and, of course, that record-breaking UK Championship success.

His run to the final of The Masters just after Christmas was another fine effort but he suffered a heavy defeat at the hands of Judd Trump there and has slumped to early exits at the World Grand Prix and Welsh Open more recently.

A first-round defeat of Barry Hawkins here suggested that, as ever, he isn't a million miles away from his best but he wasn't foot-perfect in that match and remains vulnerable to my mind.

Higgins, along with Trump and Selby, is one of very few players who isn't intimidated by the O'Sullivan 'aura' and if The Rocket is to progress to the semi-finals, he will have to work mighty hard to get past his old rival.

At the prices and given everything we have seen since the turn of the year, I can't resist a small play on Higgins at 9/4, a giant of the game who still has plenty more to offer.

Posted at 1500 GMT on 07/03/19

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