Higgins can overcome Wenbo challenge in first round at Crucible

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The 2012 World Snooker Championship gets underway this weekend, with defending champion John Higgins kicking off proceedings at 2/9 to beat Liang Wenbo.

Higgins’ vast Crucible experience will stand him in good stead against his 10/3 challenger, whose previous best finish in the Sheffield tournament has been as a beaten quarter-finalist.

Wenbo will take heart from the impressive season he has played out however, and will be hopeful for a repeat of the success he achieved against another Scotsman in qualifying, when he bested Marcus Campbell via a 10-9 scoreline.

The preparation of Higgins has not been so ideal, as he has suffered from patchy seasonal form ahead of an attempt to defend his crown, but having claimed three world championships in the past five years, he must be fancied to progress here.

Elsewhere in the first round ties, it looks difficult to separate Stuart Bingham and Stephen Hendry, who are each afforded a 10/11 price for success.

Bingham has had an impressive season, triumphing at the Australian Open to prove his undoubted credentials, but in Hendry he meets a player who has amassed seven world titles across his illustrious career.

That said, the Scotsman was last crowned champion of the Crucible tournament back in 1999, and so it could be worth getting behind the younger, in-form Bingham in this clash.

Mark Allen is also in action on the opening day, and the Englishman is fancied by many for tournament glory, after finally breaking his rankings title duck with a World Open victory this year.

Allen should have no trouble in disposing of Cao Yupeng at 1/7, whilst his Chinese opponent is 9/2 to spring a shock on his debut World Championship appearance.

The meeting of Neil Robertson and Ken Doherty will interest some punters too, though it appears a foregone conclusion that 1/6 Australian Robertson will advance, should he play the consistent snooker that defines him.

Doherty is a 4/1 shot to earn a spot in the last 16, but his lack of significant involvement in rankings events for the past few years suggest that task will be beyond him.

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