Rarely has the field for a PDC World Championship been more open, but we can expect the reigning champion Michael van Gerwen to come good once again and triumph on the biggest stage of all.
The world number one may not have had the totally dominant year that some expected after he won the World Championship back in January, but it has still been a cracking 12 months for the Dutchman. He regained his World Grand Prix title, won the European Championship for the first time, lifted the World Cup and claimed the Singapore Darts Masters and Dubai Masters.
Take into account finals appearances at the Betway Premier League and World Matchplay, along with a few floor tournament wins, and it has been a very profitable year for MVG. In fact, with the PDC Order of Merit based on prize money, he now leads the way at the top of the rankings by over £215,000 from the previous undisputed king of darts, Phil Taylor.
Van Gerwen’s number one seeding at the Ally Pally looks to have proven very helpful as he has a pretty straight forward start to the competition. Joe Cullen has beaten the Dutchman in the past, but MVG should not have a problem with him in Round One, nor should he struggle against Stuart Kellett in the last 32.
The first couple of rounds are traditionally a nervy affair for any player defending his world title for the first time. However, with Van Gerwen such a clear cut above his opening two opponents, this should not be a problem, even if he has to ease himself into the competition.
From there on it will get tougher with a potential clash with his nemesis Terry Jenkins in the third round. The Bull has knocked the world champ out of both the Players Championship Finals and the UK Open this year, something that will not sit well with MVG. The Dutchman does have a winning record over the veteran from Ledbuy though, and would be a sizzling hot favourite over seven sets.
Van Gerwen is going to be clear odds-on favourite against anyone he meets right the way to the semi-finals, when he could run into really stern competition for the first time, potentially against in-form Gary Anderson. However, judging by his performance at that stage in the last two years, it should not be a worry for him. In 2013, he came within millimetres of hitting back-to-back 9-darters en route to beating James Wade, then last year he walloped Adrian Lewis 6-0. World Championship semi-finals appear to bring out the best in the former tiler, turned oche supremo.
The major threats to Mighty Mike will come from the likes of Taylor, Lewis and Wade, but, not only has he beaten them all on this stage before, but they are all in the opposite half of the draw to him. Whilst they eliminate one another, MVG can proceed serenely to the final where he will win the big one for a second time.
11/4 – Michael van Gerwen to win the World Darts Championship