Defending champion Mark Selby is ready for what he predicts will be one of the toughest World Snooker Championships of his career.
Selby saw off John Higgins in last season's final to make it a trio of victories in four years and is aiming to become the first man since Stephen Hendry to win three in a row.
However, the 34-year-old has been handed one of the trickiest first-round draws on offer in the shape of experienced campaigner Joe Perry, while Masters champion Mark Allen could await in the second.
"As a seed, if you were to pick the players you wanted to try and avoid, I think Perry would be in there," Selby told Omnisport.
"But at the same time, they've got to be beaten.
"If you're going to go on and win the tournament or do well, you've got to beat the top players anyway.
"I think this World Championship is going to be one of the toughest.
"There's a lot of great players playing really well and it's probably hard to predict a winner this year.
"Last few years you've gone into it and there's only been two or three players playing okay, so you think it's going to be one of those three.
"But this year's going to be tough. My draw's really tough but I'd prefer it like that because you know what to expect."
Selby has found form hard to come by at times this season, with early exits at the UK Championship and the Masters belying his dominance of the World Championship.
However, just as he did last year, Selby arrives at the Crucible on the back of a victory at the China Open earlier this month.
"I definitely played as well as I have for a long time in China, so I'm coming in confident," he added.
"But sometimes that counts for nothing when you come to the World Championship. The form book seems to go out of the window.
"All I can do is go out there, believe I'm playing well and be confident."
Selby begins his campaign against Perry on Saturday.
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