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Championship League Snooker stage three preview: Murphy and Williams headline final day

Former world champions Shaun Murphy and Mark Williams headline the eight-strong list of contenders aiming for Championship League Snooker glory at the Morningside Arena on Friday.

The season's first ranking event will come to an end on Friday night and it will do so after Cao Yupeng and Sam Craigie were the latest group winners on Thursday.

They join Noppon Saengkham and Williams in Group B for Friday's concluding action, while Chris Wakelin, Robert Milkins, Xiao Guodong and Murphy will contest Group A.

WhatChampionship League Snooker
WhereMorningside Arena, Leicester
When12:00, Friday 21st July
How to watchbet365 Sports Live Streaming & Viaplay Sports
OddsShaun Murphy 11/4, Mark Williams 10/3, Noppon Saengkham 13/2, Cao Yupeng 13/2, Robert Milkins 7/1, Xiao Gudong 17/2, Chris Wakelin 11/1, Sam Craigie 11/1

Cao eyeing ranking first

Former Scottish Open finalist Cao is 13/2 to win outright in Leicester and has his eyes firmly fixed on a maiden ranking title. 

He completed a 3-0 win over Joe Perry on Thursday before drawing 2-2 with Judd Trump and two-time world finalist Matthew Stevens.

Trump blew a golden chance to reach the Championship League final group stage as a bad miss on a red saw him lose out to Cao on frame difference. 

Trump needed a win over Perry and led 2-1 but a straightforward pot on the penultimate red of the fourth frame cost him dearly. 

Watching on, Cao suggested afterwards it was his 'lucky day' before adding: "I want to get a ranking title. I've never done it before and I hope this is my season."

He's 7/4 to get the better of Noppon Saengkham in their opener at 13:30 this afternoon, while Cao (2/1) will face Welshman Williams in his second game

Craigie starts with Williams test

World No. 53 Sam Craigie counted a 3-1 win over World Championship quarter-finalist Jak Jones on his CV in sealing his place in the final day.

He ran out the winner of Group G courtesy of a 3-0 victory against Michael White, a 2-2 draw with Zehuang Long and that success over Jones.

Now he faces Jones' great friend and Class of '92 member Williams when the action gets underway on Friday at midday. Williams is favourite at 11/10 with Craigie 5/2 and the draw 15/8.

Three-time world champion Williams won all three of his round-robin fixtures in Group F of Stage Two on Monday to comfortably progress to the concluding day.

The 48-year-old has won all six of his fixtures in the season-opening ranking event, for the loss of a single frame.

Should the Welshman go on and lift the trophy, he would be the second-oldest player ever to land ranking success after countryman Ray Reardon, who was 50 when he won the Players Professional Tournament in 1982. Williams is 10/3 for outright success in Leicester.

Murphy looking strong so far

Shaun Murphy faced one of the trickiest groups on paper to progress to final day, with former winner David Gilbert, Thepchaiya Un-Nooh, and James Cahill all gunning for a piece of the Friday action.

Murphy started out strongly with a 3-1 win over Cahill thanks to breaks of 79, 64, and 51 and followed that up with 84 and 65 on the way to a 3-0 dispatch of Un-Nooh, to sit in pole position.

With Murphy taking on Gilbert in a group decider, the 2005 World Champion only needed a draw to progress and winning the opening frame was a big step towards that goal.

Gilbert rattled in back-to-back centuries to set up a final frame shootout but it was Murphy who stepped up with a 71 break to ensure his progression. 

Xiao Guodong progresses in bizarre fashion

Murphy is in Friday's Group 1 alongside Chris Wakelin, Robert Milkins and Xiao Guodong. The last-named booked his place after one of the most bizarre groups in the tournament's history.

A series of draws left it very tense and Xiao knew that only a 3-0 win against Zhou Yuelong in his final game would be enough to preserve his chances of progress. 

Xiao is underdog at 5/2 for his opener on Friday at 12.00 as he faces off with 11/10 Murphy.  

World number seven Murphy is the highest-ranked player remaining in the field and is 1/1 to overcome Chris Wakelin in his second game this afternoon, while the Magician starts the day as 11/4 favourite to be crowned Championship League winner. 

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