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In-form Higgins remains a force to be reckoned with

Robertson needs good run to boost his ranking

John Higgins defends his title in China this week
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Eurosport 1, from 7.30am Wednesday

This event was first staged last year as an invitational and returns as a lucrative 128-man competition which has attracted an elite field who qualified in Preston in June.

A handful of matches have been carried over for the qualifiers, including a clash between 2016 winner John Higgins and Chinese youngster Lyu Haotian.

The Wizard of Wishaw must now come through seven matches at the venue, but the draw has been kind to the four-time world champion and he should be backed to secure a 29th ranking-event title.

Having kicked off the season well, winning his three ranking-event qualifiers with ease, the Scot remains a force on the green baize - that was evident in his run to last season's World Championship final, while he also won three tour events.

Beyond Haotian, Higgins must face Chris Wakelin, followed by potential opponents Tom Ford and Mark Williams in order to reach the quarter-finals, a route which he is strongly fancied to navigate successfully.

He could then take on another former world champion who is set to go well in China this week, Australian world number seven Neil Robertson.

Having won the Hong Kong Masters last month with victories over Mark Selby, Marco Fu and then Ronnie O'Sullivan in the final, the 35-year-old finally looks to have put his form slump behind him.

A horrific 2016-17 season has seen Robertson slide considerably down the rankings and, with his 2015 UK Championship win set to be deducted from his two-year rankings tally, he is in real danger of missing out on an appearance at the Masters later this year, providing ample motivation this week.

Backing both Higgins and Robertson should ensure punters reach the latter stages of the event with a big-priced runner on their side, and one who can go on to secure the £150,000 winner's cheque.

Recommendations
J Higgins
1pt each-way 12-1 BoyleSports, Hills
N Robertson
1pt each-way 14-1 Betfred, BoyleSports, Sky Bet

The Wizard of Wishaw must come through seven matches at the venue, but the draw has been kind to the four-time world champion
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