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Tuesday, 11 December, 2018

Lyu should be the market leader to claim Crucible berth

Twenty-year-old has talent to upstage experienced rivals

Liang Wenbo has failed to return to the elite top 16 this season
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Starts 10am Wednesday

Most of the Betfred World Championship qualifying groups that start on day one should go the way of the favourites but the odds-­compilers may have erred by making Li Hang and not Lyu Haotian market leader for section seven.

Li has shown on occasions that he is a high-quality operator but Lyu's story is a rather special one, as he gave up snooker in the 2015-16 season after a promising early career to play pool.

However, he returned to the big-table game for another successful stint this season and was pipped 4-3 by world champ­ion and world number one Mark Selby in the European Masters.

Lyu then progressed to the semi-finals of the Northern Ireland Open, his best tournament to date, with triumphs over Joe Swail, Yuan SiJun, Thepchaiya Un-Nooh, Liam Highfield and Tian Pengfei, talented performers all.

Lyu is still only 20 years old and looks a surefire tournament winner in the next few seasons.

Li, a best-priced 13-8 with the tournament sponsors to qualify for the finals, which start on Saturday week, possesses greater experience than Lyu and the layers expect the 27-year-old to manage his qualifying tasks better.

Li was a semi-finalist in the China Championship, a quarter-finalist in the World Open this season and made the fourth round of the Betway UK Champ­ion­­ship. But those efforts apart, his campaign has not been that productive and while he can cause problems for higher-ranked opponents, he can be a bit of a workhorse.

Groups three, four, five, six, seven and nine start on day one of the qualifiers and Xiao Guodong, Martin Gould, Graeme Dott all look in the box seat to earn Crucible berths.

Sections six and nine could be closer, though. It's 5-2 the field in group six with Michael Holt and Scott Donaldson just heading the market in front of Rob Milkins and Elliot Slessor. With Holt not having been at his peak, there’s an opportunity for Donaldson to prosper.

Liang Wenbo is odds-against in places to boss section nine, but while that may happen Zhao Xintong and 2012 Crucible quarter-finalist Jamie Jones are good enough to cause problems for the former top-16 player.

Lyu Haotian to win group seven
2pts 3-1 Betfred, Coral, Ladbrokes

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Lyu made the semi-finals of the Northern Ireland Open this season and looks a surefire tournament winner in the next few years
E.W. Terms
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