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Christmas simply wouldn’t be Christmas without the darts, and the annual festive feast of arrows returns as 96 of the world’s best compete for glory at Ally Pally.
The biggest event on planet darts sees the sport’s elite compete across 16 days for the £500,000 title and a chance to etch their name into the history books.
Michael van Gerwen, the reigning and three-time World Champion, is bidding to successfully defend the trophy for the first time and unsurprisingly returns to the people’s palace as red hot favourite to extend his reign.
Van Gerwen has enjoyed another supreme season of success, winning the Premier League, World Grand Prix, Champions League and Players Championship Finals to name but a few and his formidable record in the sport’s show-piece has seen him reach at least the Semi-Final stage in six of his last seven appearances.
Expect that trend to continue this year, with the world number one having been handed a relatively straightforward passage into the latter stages on paper, with James Wade a potential Quarter-Final opponent before possible meetings with the likes of Gary Anderson, Michael Smith or Nathan Aspinall in the Semis.
Van Gerwen’s rampant record and favourable section of the draw is reflected in his short price of 5/4, but it’s unlikely the smart money will be going on the green machine.
Instead, punters have been piling their money on Van Gerwen’s current closest challenger and now serial title contender – Gerwyn Price.
Price has come alive at the business end of the season, retaining his first major title at the Grand Slam a fortnight ago in between finishing runner-up in the European Championship and Players Championship Finals.
Seeded number three, the Welshman is aiming to banish his torrid record at Ally Pally, having lost in the opening round of four of his five previous appearances, but should have little problem in reaching at least the Quarter-Finals, by which time the extended format should play into his hands and a potential final show-down with MVG could be on the cards.
In terms of alternative each-way value, Michael Smith will be desperate to go one better than his runner-up spot on New Year’s Day and is undoubtedly a big occasion player, with runs to the World Matchplay final and European Championship Semis under his belt this season.
Smith was 18/1 when he reached the final last year and is now 22/1 to fulfil his darting destiny, a price reflected by his position in the same half of the draw as MVG.