It’s almost here: the real Christmas Day. That’s how the first day of action at the PDC World Championship is known to darts fans around the globe, and this year’s contest at the Alexandra Palace looks set to be one of the most competitive in years.
Should the draw pan out as expected the last eight should be the home of some explosive contests, but when the dust has settled it looks likely that one man will stand tall. Micheal Van Gerwen has enjoyed an incredible season and looks set to ice the cake with the most prestigious prize in the sport.
Michael Van Gerwen (5/4)
There are so many reasons to back Van Gerwen to win this tournament that it’s hard to know where to begin. He’s the world number one and the top seed here, and looking at the draw he will be happy with what he sees.
There’s also the fact that the Dutchman has won all of the last four televised tournaments from October onwards. He’s won the World Championship before and will be itching to get his hands back on the trophy after missing out last year. Punters are advised to get on at 5/4 while they can.
You can still back Van Gerwen at 4/11 to win his quarter of the draw too, and that looks a reasonably generous price given his likely journey. He will meet a qualifier in the first round, before a possible meeting with the solid but unspectacular John Henderson in the second.
Victory there could set up a meeting with his fellow countryman Raymond Van Barneveld, who will be expected to get past an out-of-sorts Stephen Bunting in the second round. MVG has beaten Barney in seven of their last nine meetings, and would be highly fancied to repeat the trick once again.
A potential quarter final with either Michael Smith or Ian White would be a banana skin but not a contest he will lose sleep over, and then a last four clash with one of Adrian Lewis, Peter Wright or Dave Chisnall would be a humdinger. But avoiding Phil Taylor or Gary Anderson until the final is reason enough to lump on ‘Mighty Mike’ today.
Avoid betting on the winner of quarter two like the plague. There are simply too many permutations to back anyone with any confidence.
Adrian Lewis is the bookies’ favourite, and he should breeze past Jan Dekker in his opening match. But a potential second round clash against the fast improving Gerwyn Price is a horrendous draw, and he will be rewarded with a third round rubber against either Kim Huybrechts or Mensur Suljovic. For a player out of touch like Lewis is, that’s a journey riddled with difficulty.
Then there’s Peter Wright, who’s in good form at the minute but who may have to overcome Keegan Brown, Dave Chisnall and Lewis just to get through his quarter. Likewise Chisnall, as destructive a player as imaginable when on song, who should stroll past Rowby-John Rodriguez and Justin Pipe before running into that Wright and Lewis sandwich.
This writer wouldn’t bet his worst enemy’s money on quarter two, let alone his own.
Last Year’s Finalists Set To Meet Again
When the draw for the tournament was made it raised plenty of eyebrows; not least because it has set up a potential date between the reigning world champion Gary Anderson and the 16-time winner Phil Taylor in the semi finals.
They must get through their respective quarters first of course, and Anderson should enjoy a smooth passage to the last eight (his prospective opponents include Jamie Lewis and Vincent Van Der Voort) where he will quite possibly meet James Wade.
It would be easy enough to make a case for The Machine in that one, but we’ll stick with the Flying Scotsman to win quarter three at 5/4.
It has been a barren a year as Phil Taylor has ever experienced on tour, and he no longer keeps any of the blue riband trophies in his cabinet. The Power looks prone to an upset then, although a likely route to the quarter finals of Kevin Painter and Jelle Klaasen is hardly the stuff of nightmares – despite how good the Cobra can be on his day.
You could make a case for three or four players to meet him there; Robert Thornton won the World Grand Prix in October but barely a match since, Terry Jenkins has looked almost bipolar in his form this season while Mark Webster has shown huge improvement in recent months.
Whichever of that trio progresses, you’d still fancy Taylor to prosper. And that would set up a semi final with Anderson, and this provides the last of our bets: Gary Anderson to win the tournament outright each way. That’s because we’ll get a payout even if he loses in the final, and at 7/1 – with 1/2 terms – that post Christmas cash will come in handy.