Premier League Snooker 2008: Night Nine Preview

Premier League Snooker – Night Nine from Carlisle, SkySports1, 7:30pm

John Higgins v Joe Perry

Ronnie O’Sullivan v Stephen Hendry

With just two weeks remaining of the league stage of this competition, the race for the top four spots really hots up. Tonight sees Joe Perry come up against John Higgins before the stand-out tie of any competition, Stephen Hendry v Ronnie O’Sullivan…

Match One: Joe Perry v John Higgins

With six points already in the bag following a hugely impressive start to his Premier League career, Joe Perry is almost certain to be involved in the play-off stages next month at the Potter’s Leisure Resort in Hopton. He has not gone for in any ranking event tournament this season but following his victory in the Championship League last season, he has again shown just how capable a player he can be in this competition.

The same cannot be said for John Higgins however, who after a decent start to the league with draws against Ronnie O’Sullivan and Ding Junhui, has let things slip with defeats to Stephen Hendry and Mark Selby in his last two matches. If he is to stand any chance of qualification then he pretty much has to win every frame now against Perry and Steve Davis next week, as well as hope that other results go his way.

Unfortunately for John though I would be surprised if he were to do so against a player of Perry’s class tomorrow, I think he’s just playing too well at the moment while his own form isn’t that great, despite winning the Grand Prix last month. It should be a really close match, possibly ending in a draw which would be good for Joe, but fatal for John…

Match Two: Stephen Hendry v Ronnie O’Sullivan

For a reminder of how good matches between these two players can be, take a look at my article from Monday where I reviewed their top eleven clashes down from the last 15 years.

Tonight is another night though and it would be unrealistic to expect another clash like those given the respective form of the two players.

For O’Sullivan it will be his first competitive match since I saw him in action against Mark Selby at the EISS as they played out a 3-3 draw. It will be interesting to see how he plays tonight as like Perry he seeks the one point that will secure his place in the semi-finals next month.

Hendry though is right in the middle of the scrap for 4th place and the last spot in the semi-finals next month. After a terrible start to the League, he has looked much better in recent weeks with a couple of wins over Higgins and Davis, as well as a run to the semi-finals of the recent Bahrain Championship. While a defeat tonight would not knock Stephen out of the tournament, it would leave him needing to defeat Ding Junhui next week if he is to progress, not an easy task given that Ding beat him 6-0 last season! If Stephen beats O’Sullivan however then he would only need a draw next week, so the importance of this match cannot be underestimated for the Scot.

Overall I hope it is a close match, but would be surprised if we saw anything other than an O’Sullivan win. You never know though, Hendry is certainly capable of beating him and it remains to be seen how O’Sullivan will play on his return to action.