Top class snooker returns to Wolverhampton this month with the Duelbits Players Championship - but defending champion Neil Robertson and World Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan are both struggling to qualify.

Only the top 16 players on this season’s one year ranking list will be in the field for the ITV televised tournament which runs from 20 to 26 February, staged at Aldersley Leisure Village for the second consecutive year. The final counting event is next week’s Welsh Open so the field will not be confirmed until 19 February.

Australia’s Robertson is currently 18th on the one year ranking list so needs to win at least 2 matches in Wales to climb into the top 16. O’Sullivan is yet to produce his best in ranking events so far this season, though he has won 2 big invitation tournaments, and lies 26th so has to reach the final in Wales to earn a spot in Wolverhampton. John Higgins is another star name who could miss out – he needs to win the title in Wales.

Mark Allen has been the player of the season so far and he tops the one year list, while all time greats Mark Selby, Judd Trump, Shaun Murphy and Mark Williams are all on track to qualify for Wolverhampton, as well as exciting young talents such as Jack Lisowski, Luca Brecel and Kyren Wilson.

A spokesman for World Snooker Tour said: “It will be fascinating to see the final lap of the race to Wolverhampton unfold next week in Wales, with players determined to book a place in the lucrative Duelbits Players Championship.

“The fact that the likes of Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins and defending champion Neil Robertson have not yet qualified shows just how tough and competitive the tour is now. It is a completely fair playing field with all players starting the season with an equal opportunity to earn a place in the 3 Duelbits Series events, and those in form are rewarded.

“This season we have seen Gary Wilson and Chris Wakelin win tournaments for the first time, and that success gives them the chance to go on and compete in the biggest events.

“Wolverhampton proved a superb venue for this tournament last year and we hope the local fans will pack the arena again to watch the action in snooker’s golden age.”

City of Wolverhampton Council Cabinet Member with responsibility for city events, Councillor Steve Evans, added: “The tournament created a great buzz in the city last year, with 4,000 people attending the 7 day event at Aldersley and benefitting the local economy by an estimated £140,000.

“Many visitors were thrilled to have world snooker on their doorsteps, while others travelled from all over the globe to be here.

“We are delighted that the snooker is returning to the city for a second year, and I’d encourage everyone to book their tickets as soon as possible because many sessions will sell out.

“The prestigious televised tournament follows quickly on the back of the Wolverhampton Literature Festival and is all part of the Council’s overall events strategy to bring the very best in art, music, and sport to the city to boost the local economy, create new jobs and build an outstanding cultural reputation.”

Tickets are on sale now and start at just £20 – fantastic value for the chance to see live sport of the highest quality. For details visit WST