|Masters 2019 on the BBC|
|Date: 13-20 January Venue: Alexandra Palace, London|
|Coverage: Watch live across BBC Two, BBC iPlayer, BBC Red Button, Connected TV, the BBC Sport website and mobile app.|
Northern Ireland’s Mark Allen says he is “very, very confident” as the world number six prepares to defend his Masters title at Alexandra Palace.
The 32-year-old from Antrim, who beat Kyren Wilson in last year’s decider, starts against Luca Brecel on Sunday.
“I’m not getting carried away but my game’s in very good shape,” said Allen.
“I’ve a few tough matches ahead of me but I really fancy my chances – I’ve really enjoyed my time as Masters champion and don’t want to let it go.”
The 10-7 victory over Wilson was a breakthrough success for the Antrim man as he secured a first Triple Crown success.
It was also the springboard for his best year as a professional with two more titles coming later in 2018.
“I’ve always believed in myself and I had won a lot of tournaments, but never one of the Triple Crown events,” added Allen.
“People touted me as one of the best to not win one and you would always have that monkey on your back.
“I’ve won one and now I want to try to push on and win more. It would be awesome to win the tournament again.
“In terms of the the way I handled things for my first major tournament win, I was quite proud of myself and it’s something I will always look back on with fond memories.”
Victory for Allen over world number world number 14 Brecel would set up a quarter-final against Ding Junhui or Jack Lisowski.
“I’ll just treat Sunday’s game like any other – it’s the top 16 in the world so I’m going to have to play well,” he said.
“Luca’s an aggressive player, he goes for his shots and is a good long potter. I just have to play better than him, it’s as simple as that.
“I had two wins, a runner-up finish and a semi-final in four of my last five starts at the end of 2018 and I want to continue that form.
“I’m very, very confident going into the Masters. I’ve been practising very hard over the New Year and I’m just looking to getting started.”