Ronnie O'Sullivan has claimed Judd Trump is 'ahead of the pack' as both players chase the UK Championship title in York.
Trump has got the better of O'Sullivan in three of the last four meetings between the pair, including in the final of the Northern Ireland Open earlier this month, and he currently heads the betting at 9/4 to win in York and ensure all three Triple Crown trophies are in his possession at the same time.
Trump's march to the top of the world rankings has suggested snooker is witnessing a genuine changing of the guard with Trump now established as the dominant force in the sport and the likes of O'Sullivan and John Higgins keen to play down any talk of a new 'rivalries' as they enter the twilight of their careers.
However, Trump's ascent to the top of snooker has come at the expense of O'Sullivan who now finds himself in the unusual position of not being the man to beat at the start of this prestigious event, something he was keen to emphasise after his first-round victory over Ross Bullman.
He said: "At the moment Judd seems to be ahead of the pack. He’s the world champion, he’s world number one and the man in form, so he’s going to take some stopping.
“But there are still so many games to go and sport’s a funny thing. It can take one small mistake and you’re on your way home, and there are a lot of good players left that want to get their hands on the trophy.
Despite fans and media alike trying to stoke up a rivalry between O'Sullivan and Trump in recent weeks, the seven-time UK Championship winner was keen to downplay such talk, instead insisting that his rivalries have been with the likes of Higgins and Mark Williams who, like O'Sullivan, hail from the famous Class of 92.
He went on: "It's very difficult to call it a rivalry because I'm so much older. I'm 44 and I think the rivalry was me, Higgins and Williams.
"I suppose Judd's rivalry would be with someone more like Ding, because they are at the right age. They're going along at parallel careers.
"I think rivalries are stemmed when two people are on parallel careers but it's good to still be around.
Nevertheless, O'Sullivan was keen to pay tribute to Trump for all he warned he still needs to achieve more before he can be labelled an all-time great of the game.
He added: "He's a great talent but you look at the CV; you look at Stephen Hendry and Steve Davis and you know they are true greats of the game.
"The true test is doing it over 10-15 years. You look at Messi, you look at Federer, you look at Tiger Woods and you would say they are greats."
- Watch the World Championship LIVE on Eurosport and Eurosport Player with analysis from Jimmy White and Neal Foulds