Smith to Become the King of Ally Pally!

PDC World Darts Championship Michael Smith

You know Christmas is upon us when, with Elton John, Paul McCartney and The Pogues filling the airwaves, ‘Alexandra Palace’ and the ‘PDC World Championship’ are mentioned in the same breath. It signals the start of what is commonly acknowledged to be the biggest party in town.

This year the event sees 96 players taking part – as opposed to the usual 72 – with the world’s darting elite battling to lay hands on the prestigious Sid Waddell Trophy in a tournament that straddles Christmas and the New Year.

The extra 24 qualifiers mean this year there are an extra six sessions to be accommodated at Ally Pally, and included in those 24, for the first time ever, are two female competitors – Anastasia Dobromyslova and Lisa Ashton.

As a result of the extra numbers, the 32 seeded players – those who have qualified from the PDC Order of Merit – will enter the event at the second-round stage. Each seed will be drawn to play a winner from the 32 first-round matches, which will be made up of 32 international qualifiers and the 32 qualifiers from the ProTour Order of Merit.

TOP TIP! – Michael Smith to win the PDC World Championship @ +1400   / Gerwin Price to win the PDC World Championship @ +3300   e/w

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The full first and second round draw is as follows (seedings in brackets):

(1) Michael van Gerwen v Alan Tabern/Raymond Smith

(32) Max Hopp v Royden Lam/Danny Noppert

(16) Adrian Lewis v Simon Stevenson/Ted Evetts

(17) Raymond van Barneveld v Matthew Edgar/Darius Labanauskas

(8) Simon Whitlock v Ryan Joyce/Anastasia Dobromyslova

(25) Alan Norris v Steve Lennon/James Bailey

(9) James Wade v Krzystof Ratajski/Seigo Asada

(24) Jelle Klaasen v Keegan Brown/Karel Sedlacek

 

(5) Daryl Gurney v Ross Smith/Paul Lim

(28) Jamie Lewis v Martin Schindler/Cody Harris

(12) Dave Chisnall v Josh Payne/Jeff Smith

(21) Kim Huybrechts v Robert Thornton/Daniel Larsson

(4) Gary Anderson v Paul Nicholson/Kevin Burness

(29) Jermaine Wattimena v Michael Barnard/Jose De Sousa

(13) Darren Webster v Vincent van der Voort/Lourence Ilagen

(20) Steve Beaton v Chris Dobey/Boris Koltsov

 

(2) Rob Cross v Jeffrey de Zwaan/Nitin Kumar

(31) Cristo Reyes v Ricky Evans/Rowby-John Rodriguez

(15) Jonny Clayton v Dimitri van den Bergh/Chuck Puleo

(18) Stephen Bunting v Luke Humphries/Adam Hunt

(7) Mensur Suljovic v Ryan Searle/Stephen Burton

(26) James Wilson v William O’Connor/Yordi Meeuwi

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(10) Michael Smith v Ron Meulenkamp/Diogo Portela

(23) John Henderson v Gabriel Clemens/Aden Kirk

 

(6) Gerwyn Price v Nathan Aspinall/Geert Nentjes

(27) Kyle Anderson v Jeffrey de Graaf/Noel Malicdem

(11) Ian White v Wayne Jones/Devon Peterson

(22) Steve West v Richard North/Robert Marijanovic

(3) Peter Wright v Toni Alcinas/Craig Ross

(30) Benito van de Pas v Micky Mansell/Jim Long

(14) Joe Cullen v Brendan Dolan/Yuanjun Liu

(19) Mervyn King v Jan Dekker/Lisa Ashton

Unsurprisingly, Michael van Gerwen starts as +138   favourite to reclaim the world title he lost in January, after losing to the eventual winner Rob Cross in an epic semi-final. Instead of MVG winning again, it was the 28-year-old from Kent who shocked the world and took the crown after a one-sided final against his hero, the now retired Phil Taylor.

By MVG standards, it has been a quietish year but still he picked up three big titles – a fourth straight Masters, a third successive Premier League and the World Grand Prix crown. He remains the player to beat.

Cross, unfortunately, hasn’t been able to kick on as he would have wished after taking the sport’s biggest prize and while his number two seeding reflects his position as holder of the trophy, most bookies have him as either fifth or sixth favourite ( +2200 ) for this year’s crown. But he mustn’t be underestimated as he’s proved he can handle the pressure of Ally Pally, and he is a player who clearly favours the set-based format used at the world championship.

In the top quarter of the draw, there appears on paper little to trouble MVG. Adrian Lewis – champion in 2011 and 2012 – has had, by his standards, a poor year and it will take a significant turnaround in form for the once-protégé of Phil Taylor to even get to the quarter-finals, and is reflected in his odds of +8000 . Another player to have a poor season – also at +8000   for the title – is the once-dangerous Aussie, Simon Whitlock but it’s worth noting that he and Lewis both know what it takes to perform on the Alexandra Palace stage, so should never be ignored.

Another one to watch is Englishman James Wade, who has had something of a comeback season, reflected in his ninth seeding and odds of +4000 . After a trophy-less four years, wins in the European Championship and the World Series of Darts have thrust him back into the list of contenders.

And then there is Barney. Raymond van Barneveld – champion in 2007 – who has announced he will retire after next year’s World Darts Championship. One final hurrah for the popular Dutchman, who’s +8000   for the title, would thrill the Ally Pally crowd.

In the second quarter of the draw, Gary Anderson – the tournament’s second favourite at +350   – finds himself with a tricky route to the final, with a semi-final with MVG looming. The Scot has had an outstanding year and has won the World Matchplay, the UK Open and Champions League of Darts titles, in addition to being at the centre of ‘fart-gate’  at the Grand Slam of Darts. He’s well placed for a serious tilt at the title.

If the seedings work out, the Scot could meet Daryl Gurney in the quarter-finals and set up a repeat of this year’s World Grand Prix quarter-final where Gurney beat him 3-0 on his way to his first PDC title. Gurney then went on to add a second title when he won the Players Championship Finals. Interestingly, the winner of that event has gone on to win at Ally Pally in four of the last six years, so keep an eye on Gurney who at +3300   for the world title represents some decent value.

Quarter three is an interesting one as, in addition to Cross, it contains the in-form Michael Smith ( +1400 ), who this year has reached the final of the Premier League and the World Series Finals. Theoretically, Smith could meet another in-form contender, Mensur Suljovic ( +2200 ) in the last 16, with Cross, if he progresses, potentially facing the winner. Austrian based Serb, Suljovic has yet to make his mark at Ally Pally but it feels like a matter of time. Both he and Smith are worth keeping a very close eye on.

The aforementioned Cross has some work to do though to even make it as far as the potential clash with Smith or Suljovic, with a tough-looking second round match-up with young Dutchman, Jeffrey de Zwaan ( +10000 )  awaiting, assuming he wins his first game. De Zwaan is a dangerous opponent, and so if Cross comes does through that, maybe it will reignite his belief. This makes it a fascinating quarter of the draw.

Another one to watch is Belgian, Dimitri van den Bergh, who came close to beating Cross on his march to the title one year ago. At +6600   the Belgian entertainer really is worth watching, in more ways than one, and is a worthy each-way bet.

The favourite to progress from the fourth quarter is the flamboyant Peter Wright, who at +1000 is third-favourite to lift the Sid Waddell trophy. Over the last five years, Wright has impressed at Ally Pally with one final – in 2014 – one semi-final and two quarter-finals to his name, and while he hasn’t been in great form this year, it’s clear this is a stage that suits him. Add in the fact he has been drawn in what, by common consensus, is the weakest quarter of the draw, and he will fancy his chances.

However, Welsh firebrand Gerwyn Price ( +3300 ) will also see this part of the draw as a potential route to the latter stages of the tournament and will be looking to build on his recent win in the Grand Slam final, where he beat Gary Anderson. His biggest hurdle will likely be that of Aussie Kyle Anderson ( +15000 ), who he is scheduled to meet in the second round, but if he can get through that tie, we fancy him to go a long way.

So, who wins?

It’s remains hard to see past Michael van Gerwen, perhaps even more so given the indifferent year that he has had (by his standards), but at 11/8 in a 96-horse race there is little value to be had. Gary Anderson, at +350   , arguably offers a slightly better bet.

Where it gets a little more interesting is when looking at the longer shots who we know have the ability to deliver on their day. Rob Cross proved it can be done last year, and so in our view there is value to be had with Daryl Gurney at  +3300   , Gerwin Price at  +3500   188bet and James Wade at +4000 . All are worthy of an each-way wager.

There is however a player who sits between these each-way shots and the big two, one we consider capable of going all the way, and that is Michael Smith. He’s in what on paper is the easier side of the draw, and at +1400   Bet365 we consider him well worthy of a shot.

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