Ronnie O’Sullivan eases into the Crucible on the hunt for a modern record eighth world title and it is abundantly apparent that if the Rocket is in the mood, then very few of his rivals will be able to live with him.

But while O’Sullivan continues to soak up all the pre-tournament column inches, the PA news agency sizes up the best of the rest who are left with the daunting task of putting the brakes on the best player the game has seen.

Luca Brecel

Cazoo World Snooker Championship 2023 – Day 17 – Final – The Crucible
Luca Brecel has done little since winning his first world title 12 months ago (Zac Goodwin/PA)

Barring a run to the final of the non-ranking Shanghai Masters, Brecel has done anything but build on his stunning title success last year, and must rank as one of the least fancied returning champions in history. But the Belgian was equally unfancied 12 months ago when he waded into the Crucible insisting he had not laid a hand on the practice table, so it feels wrong to write him off entirely just yet.

Judd Trump

MrQ Masters 2024 – Day Three – Alexandra Palace
Judd Trump is yet to fully convince that he can repeat as world champion (John Walton/PA)

Flashback to 2019 when Trump’s maiden world crown bore all the hallmarks of a decade of dominance ahead. No fewer than 14 ranking titles have followed – including five this year alone – but with the exception of the 2023 Masters, the coveted majors have remained elusive. Trump undoubtedly has the talent to become a multiple world champion, but whether he has the temperament to see it through again remains a significant question mark.

Mark Selby

Cazoo World Snooker Championship 2023 – Day 16 – Final – The Crucible
Mark Selby is ready to rise to the Crucible occasion once again (Zac Goodwin/PA)

Four-time winner Selby trudges to the Crucible on the back of another inconsistent campaign that left him seriously considering retirement after his loss to Gary Wilson in the first round of this month’s Tour Championship. All of which will count for nothing, of course, when the Crucible kicks back in and the 40-year-old, who has repeatedly showed the tenacity to grind his way through the rounds, will once again be well and truly in the running.

Mark Allen

MrQ Masters 2024 – Day Six – Alexandra Palace
Mark Allen is still looking for his first appearance in the Crucible final (Steven Paston/PA)

Seemingly in danger of becoming known as one of the game’s great under-achievers, Allen radically altered his style a couple of seasons ago and the ranking titles began rolling in – five in the last two years, plus a Champion of Champions gong. While it undoubtedly makes him better-equipped to break his Crucible duck, the fact remains that his Crucible record – with just two semi-finals in 17 appearances – leaves a lot to be desired.

Gary Wilson

Cazoo World Snooker Championship 2023 – Day 10 – The Crucible
Gary Wilson has won three ranking titles in the last two years (Tim Goode)

Wilson’s run to the 2019 semi-finals as a qualifier looked to have been a flash in the pan until the last two seasons, in which the Tyneside man has picked up three ranking crowns and established a reputation as one of the toughest match-players in the business. With a steady temperament that makes him well-suited to the long game, Wilson could emerge once again as a major threat.