European Masters: Quarter-Final Preview
Eight players remain in the hunt for the European Masters title as the competition reaches the business end of proceedings in Belgium.
Defending champion Judd Trump and world number one Mark Selby head a high-quality field that will attempt to land the £75,000 champion’s cheque on Sunday.
Trump reached the last eight courtesy of a 4-2 victory over David Gilbert on Thursday, while fellow Englishman Selby squeezed passed Jack Lisowski in a decider.
It marks the first time this season that the world champion has reached the quarter-final stage of a ranking event.
Selby will meet Stuart Bingham for a semi-final berth after the 2015 Crucible king ended the hopes of home favourite Luca Brecel in the last 16.
Selby boasts a marginally superior head-to-head record and tasted success in their two most recent encounters in 2016 in the semi-finals of both the International Championship and Shanghai Masters.
Trump, meanwhile, will face Mark Allen after the Northern Irishman continued his resurgence in form of late with a 4-2 triumph against Ben Woollaston.
Allen hasn’t won a ranking tournament in a year and a half but reached the last four of the recent World Open, where he was denied only after a deciding frame thriller with Kyren Wilson.
Trump and Allen haven’t met each other for over three years, a long time considering they have both been consistently at the top of the sport during that period.
Their last clash came in the final of the 2014 Paul Hunter Classic, in which Allen prevailed over the same best of seven frames format.
Indeed, the 31 year-old has a better record in their encounters outside the Championship League, although did lose his most important match with Trump in the final of the 2011 UK Championship.
The other two quarter-finals feature a young Chinese competitor, each attempting to make their big breakthrough in the sport.
Cao Yupeng has continued his somewhat surprising improvement this campaign with a 4-3 clincher against rookie Billy Joe Castle, sealing only his second ever appearance at this stage of a ranking tournament.
The 26 year-old will face Mark Williams with the hope of a maiden semi-final spot after the Welshman dispatched of Neil Robertson in a battle of the former world champions.
Cao has only challenged Williams on one prior occasion at one of the now defunct Asian Tour events and did manage a 4-3 victory against the former world number one.
Countryman Zhou Yuelong plays in the remaining quarter-final, cueing up against the in-form Anthony McGill.
Zhou, a receiver of so many plaudits over the last couple of campaigns after showing plenty of promise early on in his career, had been relatively quiet during this term up until now.
However, a kind enough draw, in which he defeated the Lines father and son, has helped him to reach this point and it’ll be interesting to see if he can make a concerted push to gain that seemingly inevitable first piece of silverware.
McGill offers his sternest test of the week so far, though, with the Indian Open runner-up in fine fettle after a 4-3 success over Mark Davis in the last round, but the Scot did lose his only previous fixture with Zhou last year.