Ronnie O'Sullivan reckons Mark Allen has the 'bottle' to win his first Betfred World Championship - but his break-building ability may let him down.
Five-time king of the Crucible O'Sullivan has failed to progress past the quarter-finals in Sheffield since 2014 and is now ramping up preparations for a tilt at a sixth crowning glory.
He knows he will face a stern test from five-time ranking event winner Allen, who has enjoyed an impressive season and risen to a career-high ranking of World No.4.
World No.6 O'Sullivan is an admirer of the Antrim potter's mental resolve but says it's that crucial power scoring that could dash his hopes of glory.
"Mark Allen could slip in the back door - he's got the bottle to win it, which is important," the 44-year-old said.
"Whether he can take his game to that high, high level is what might let him down. When you're building a snooker player, it's very hard to be brilliant in every department, but if there are things that you had to have, bottle would be one you can't do without.
"The other one would be scoring, to make big breaks and make the game easy - you could probably get away with not being the best safety player in the world if your attacking game is good enough.
"I think if your scoring is good and your bottle's good, you're always going to have a chance.
"I think Mark Allen has the bottle, but does he have the scoring power of the other players and myself? In the early rounds, yes, but when you get to the semi-finals and finals and you're playing someone who's a very heavy scorer, is that something that might let him down? I don't know, and I think that's probably the areas that he needs to work on."
Allen has failed to progress to the semi-finals in Sheffield since 2009, reaching the last eight three times since but struggling for consistency at the greatest event on the calendar.
And the 2018 Masters champion has got past the second round on just a solitary occasion across the last eight years, needing to beat Welsh debutant Jamie Clarke this year to address that unwanted record after the draw was made on Wednesday.
Allen has beaten O'Sullivan three times in their nine clashes across his career, while the 34-year-old's run to the recent Tour Championship final, where he lost 10-6 to Stephen Maguire, propelled him to the top four of the world rankings.
O'Sullivan has come up trumps on six occasions against Allen and is not convinced he can improve his game at his age.
"Can he get better at it? I don't know - he's in his 30s now, and is there much improvement you can do beyond 26, 27? I don't think there is, really.
"If he won the world title, I wouldn't be surprised, but I'd be surprised if he won it beating a Neil Robertson in form, or a Stephen Maguire on form, or a Judd Trump on form, or someone like that.
"I'm not sure that his best is as good as their best, if that make sense."
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