The stars of world darts get set to descend on the Alexandra Palace for arguably the most eagerly anticipated and closely-contested World Championship to date, as a host of in-form titans vie for the sport’s ultimate accolade.
This year’s festive feast of arrows features players from all corners of the world competing over 14 days for £1.25million in prize money and the right to raise the Sid Waddell trophy.
While the usual suspects, Messrs Taylor and van Gerwen, plot their pathway to glory, a clutch of other dangerous darters wait in the wings with serious ambitions of etching their names on the most prestigious piece of silverware in the sport.
Here’s who we’re backing for the big one:
Top three each-way picks:
- Michael van Gerwen @ 6/1* with Betway – *Exclusive sign-up offer
- Gary Anderson @ 7/1 with Ladbrokes
- Kim Huybrechts @ 66/1 with SkyBet
Lewis to hit the jackpot
Adrian Lewis’ success at the Alexandra Palace is second only to that of his fellow Stoke star – Phil Taylor – and the number three seed heads to the capital with a new spring in his step as he bids for a third crown in the space of five stagings.
Back-to-back champion in 2011 and 2012, Lewis knows exactly what is required to reign supreme on the sport’s biggest stage, and will once again be performing under the watchful eye of mentor Keith Deller.
Having gone their separate ways in March last year, Lewis announced that he was to link back up with the 1983 World Champion prior to last month’s Players Championship Finals, in which he mounted a terrific run to the final.
It was during his time with Deller that Lewis enjoyed the most successful stint of his career, and it is no coincidence that the 29-year-old appears more focused and produces consistent brilliance with Deller in his corner.
Jackpot has reached at least the Quarter-Finals in his last five World Championship campaigns, including the Semi-Finals 12 months ago, and looks ominously at ease with the Ally Pally stage.
Debutant David Pallett offers up Lewis’ first test, and although he may have wished for a slightly kinder draw, his ruthless scoring power and fluency should carry him through.
A potential second round meeting with either John Part or Keegan Brown would then be followed by a potentially mouth-watering meeting with Raymond van Barneveld in the last 16, before the likes of James Wade and Stephen Bunting enter his path in the Quarter-Finals.
On current form, it is likely that Lewis would have to overcome his World Cup team-mate Phil Taylor in the Semi-Finals to set up a final show-down with perhaps rival Michael van Gerwen or form horse Gary Anderson in a repeat of their 2011 encounter.
Lewis boasts an incredible natural ability and remains one of the deadliest 180 hitters in the business, with that scoring power crucial over the long distance set format.
Can anyone stop the green machine?
There is no doubting that Michael van Gerwen will be there or there abouts in his quest to become only the third player in PDC history to successfully defend their world crown.
The number one seed heads to the people’s palace with a new weight of expectation this year, but it’s likely to take an extraordinary display to deny him a place in the latter stages.
Having already claimed the Singapore Masters, World Cup, World Grand Prix and European Championship titles, amid a serious of other European Tour and ProTour triumphs, MVG has maintained a ruthless streak over the course of 2014 and now looks to culminate that by retaining the big one.
Joe Cullen, Stuart Kellett and Terry Jenkins lie in waiting in the opening three rounds respectively, before a potential last eight meeting with Dave Chisnall and a Semi-Final show-down with Gary Anderson, if the draw bracket is true to form.
That said, van Gerwen has been susceptible to the occasional drop in form in high-pressure situations, including the Premier League, World Matchplay and Perth Masters finals this year, and an in-form Taylor or Lewis know they have the beating of the green machine if he produces anything other than his ‘A’ game.
If 11/4 wasn’t tempting enough, Premier League sponsors Betway
are offering huge odds of 6/1 for new customers, as well as a £10 free bet for every match he wins during the tournament. It’s a no-brainer.
Double Dutch at the palace? (Photo by Lawrence Lustig/PDC)
Flying Scotsman to remain on track?
Gary Anderson remains one of the greatest players yet to have won a world title, but current form would suggest this year’s event may present the Scotsman’s best chance of doing so to date.
The world number four has enjoyed arguably his most successful season on the PDC circuit, winning no fewer than seven tour events, as well as last month’s Players Championship Finals in Minehead.
Having seen off the likes of Stephen Bunting, Phil Taylor and Adrian Lewis in claiming his first major PDC televised ranking title, Anderson warmed up for the season’s show-piece in dream fashion and will be looking to pick up from where he left off.
After starting the year as a 20/1 chance, he has now been backed in to 7/1 third favourite with Ladbrokes
, but is situated in the same half of the draw as van Gerwen – to whom he lost 4-3 on this stage 12 months ago after leading 3-1.
With a tricky second round clash against either Jelle Klaasen or Christian Kist in the offering, the former Premier League champion will have to do it the hard way if he is to take the title, but there aren’t many more quietly-confident or in-form players around than the 43-year-old at the moment.
Man of the moment: Gary Anderson (Photo by Lawrence Lustig/PDC)
London braced for Hurricane threat
Kim Huybrechts proved just how much of a formidable force he is when he brushed aside van Gerwen with a nine-darter en route to the Grand Slam Semi-Finals last month.
The Belgian sensation appears to have finally got to grips with his new darts and has gone about his business admirably amid a turbulent time away from the oche in recent months, channelling his personal problems into producing his best form in front of the TV cameras.
A good run here could unlock the key to a place in the Premier League, although the Antwerp ace has found himself in this position before and is locked in a quarter of the draw that also includes a certain Phil Taylor.
In terms of a value outsider, odds of 66/1 with SkyBet
look too good to turn down as an each-way bet should he reproduce his Wolverhampton magic and improve on his run to the Quarter-Finals here on debut in 2012.
Kim it to win it (Photo by Lawrence Lustig/PDC)