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Crucible ready to stage 2015 World Snooker Championship

All eyes will soon focus on Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre as the World Snooker Championship returns, with the globe’s best potters vying to lift the prestigiously coveted crown.

Reigning champion Mark Selby will be aiming to become only the second player since 1996 to retain the title, as he returns to the scene of his greatest career moment 12 months ago.

Despite arriving as the defending champion, ‘the Jester from Leicester’ is only fourth-favourite for the title, with five-time Crucible king Ronnie O’Sullivan leading the way at 9/4 with Coral.

Selby is an 8/1 chance to lift the world title for the second consecutive season, with only ‘the Rocket’ having been capable of winning back-to-back championships in this last decade, since Scot Stephen Hendry achieved such a feat 11 years ago.

Bristol-born cueist Judd Trump has enjoyed a successful season so far and has put himself well in with a chance of earning a maiden World Championship crown, having recently finally overcome his constant conqueror O’Sullivan in the Grand Prix final.

Snooker - Crucible Filer

‘The Juddernaut’ was beaten in consecutive major finals by the world number four last year, losing in both the UK Championship and Champion of Champions, but he is 13/2 to triumph in Sheffield this year.

Astute Australian break builder Neil Robertson will undoubtedly be in the mix again this year, having incredibly dispatched a famous century of centuries last season, with ‘the Thunder from Down Under’ a 5/1 chance to lift a second world title, having won back in 2010.

Outside the top four lies plenty of clinical competition, including this year’s Masters champion Shaun Murphy, who will be hoping to become only the fifth player in history, after Hendry, Steve Davis, Ray Reardon and Mark Williams, to taste victory in both London’s invitational event and the World Championship in the same calendar year.

Snooker - 2015 Dafabet Masters - Day One - Alexandra Palace

Having recently ended a seven-year wait to clinch a historic Triple Crown, ‘the Magician’ is 10/1 to win a second Crucible title, after previously adding the Masters to his 2005 world crown and 2008 UK triumph.

Murphy was the last player to have incredibly won in Sheffield after coming through the qualifying rounds and, there are plenty of new stars ready to achieve a similar accolade this year. Although, that won’t include veteran potters Jimmy White, Steve Davis and Ken Doherty, who all succumbed to disappointing losses in the qualifying stages.

‘The Whirlwind’ White and ‘the Nugget’ Davis both fell short, while Irishman and 1997 champion Doherty was toppled at the final qualifying hurdle by world number 18 Mark Davis, who is a 125/1 outsider for this year’s competition.

Northern Ireland’s ‘Pistol’ Mark Allen will be challenging for his maiden Crucible crown and is a 20/1 shout, while four-time world champion John Higgins (25/1), ‘Chinese Sensation’ Ding Junhui (14/1), feisty Scot Stephen Maguire (28/1) and ‘the Captain’ Ali Carter (50/1) are always a threat.