The Masters: Judd Trump favourite but keep your eyes on O'Sullivan, Selby and Higgins

The world’s best 16 players will congregate at London’s Alexandra Palace ahead of the 48th edition of The Masters.

The knockout tournament is the second of three Triple Crown events alongside the UK Championship and World Snooker Championship.

Yan Bingtao is the defending champion after edging past John Higgins in last year's final. However, in order to retain his crown, the Chinese number two will have to overcome a stellar field which is currently led by favourite Judd Trump.

With that in mind, here's a look at some of the main contenders ahead of the start of the Masters.

First Round

Yan Bingtao vs Mark Williams

John Higgins vs Zhao Xintong

Neil Robertson vs Anthony McGill

Ronnie O'Sullivan vs Jack Lisowski

Judd Trump vs Mark Allen

Kyren Wilson vs Stuart Bingham

Shaun Murphy vs Barry Hawkins

Mark Selby vs Stephen Maguire

Can Judd Trump live up to the 'favourite' tag?

Judd Trump during his match against Matthew Selt on day eight of the Cazoo UK Championship at the York Barbican. Picture date: Tuesday November 30, 2021.

After a slow start to the new season, Trump powered to victory in November's Champion of Champions tournament.

The win in Bolton not only banked him £150,000 but it also reaffirmed the 32-year-old as one of the top contenders to win the Masters.

Trump won this event back in 2019 after dominating Ronnie O'Sullivan in the final, going on to win 10-4.

Last year, the player was forced to miss the tournament after testing positive for Covid-19 alongside Jack Lisowski.

Trump will be hoping for a triumphant return to Alexandra Palace when he begins his campaign against Mark Allen.

Ronnie O'Sullivan eyes historic eighth title

Ronnie O'Sullivan holds the Paul Hunter trophy after his victory during day eight of the Dafabet Masters at Alexandra Palace, London.

As a 13-time finalist and seven-time winner of this event, Ronnie O'Sullivan is the most successful player in the history of the Masters.

The 46-year-old will be looking to win his first title since 2017 and considering the impressive start he has made this season, it's no surprise to see him as one of the favourites.

The Rocket enters this year's Masters on the back of a win at the World Grand Prix. O'Sullivan put on a superb display in the final as he came back from behind on three occasions to beat Neil Robertson 10-8.

The current world number three will take on Jack Lisowski in the opening round.

Mark Selby missing killer instinct

Mark Selby during his first round match with Ross Muir on day two of the Cazoo UK Championship at the York Barbican. Picture date: Wednesday November 24, 2021.

One man who cannot be overlooked is the current world champion Mark Selby.

The 38-year-old is yet to find his killer instinct this season but it's fair to say that his form is beginning to improve.

After bowing out in the early rounds of the English Open, UK Championship and the Scottish Open, Selby went on to make the quarter-finals of Champion of Champions tournament, as well as the semi-final of the World Grand Prix.

The three-time winner of the Masters takes on Stephen Maguire in his opening contest.

Can Zhao Xintong keep Triple Crown dream alive?

Zhao Xintong, who completed a 10-5 win over Luca Brecel to claim the UK Championship crown in York. Issue date: Thursday December 16, 2021.

Since it's inception, only three players have gone on to claim the Triple Crown. They are Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry (twice) and most recently Mark Williams.

Having claimed the UK Championship earlier in the season, Zhao Xintong will be hoping to keep his Triple Crown dream alive when he arrives at the Alexandra Palace.

The world number nine is not considered as one of the main favourites for the Masters, but the Chinese player simply cannot be underestimated - especially following his UK Championship triumph.

John Higgins struggling to get over the line

John Higgins during day four of the Cazoo UK Championship at the York Barbican. Picture date: Saturday November 27, 2021.

Despite being involved in four finals this season, John Higgins is yet to lift a piece of silverware.

Most recently, the 46-year-old reached the Scottish Open final but fell to a 9-5 loss against Belgium's Luca Brecel.

Getting over the finishing line appears to be a growing issue for Higgins, but the fact that he's continuously progressing to finals says a lot about his current form.

The four-time world champion may not be a frontrunner for the Masters but he is certainly one to watch.

Neil Robertson capable of a long run

Neil Robertson in action during day three of the Cazoo UK Championship at the York Barbican. Picture date: Thursday November 25, 2021.

Current world number four, Neil Robertson, will get his Masters campaign underway with a clash against Anthony McGill.

The 39-year-old has enjoyed a strong start to the season having reached the World Grand Prix final and won the English Open.

Robertson's last two appearances at the Masters both ended with defeats in the first round. Despite this, the 2012 winner of the event will be regarded as one of the top contenders to go all the way.