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PDC World Championship early preview: Players to watch

A total of 64 players will be vying for darts’ most prestigious prize, the PDC World Championship, with the main draw taking place over the Christmas and New Year period from December 18th – January 4th.

Coral writers give an early preview of the tournament that promises a whopping £250k and the Sid Waddell trophy for the winner at the famous Alexandra Palace (Ally Pally) venue.

Defending champion, world number one and top seed Michael van Gerwen is a highly tempting price of 5/2 (tournament second-favourite). The Dutchman goes up first on the opening day against Englishman Joe Cullen, who has yet to taste victory at the World Championship in four attempts, and is heavily odds-on at 1/25 to beat him.

Phil Taylor, who has won this event 16 times (14 PDC, two BDO), meanwhile, is the favourite with Coral at 7/4, following his triumph at the recent Grand Slam of Darts. The 54-year-old all-time great goes up against German Jyhan Artut in his opening match on December 19th, and is an even shorter 1/33 chance.

Taylor, though, arguably has the harder half of the draw, with the likes of Raymond van Barneveld, James Wade, Adrian Lewis, Simon Whitlock, Stephen Bunting, Kim Huybrechts all in his section before the final.

In-form Gary Anderson could represent the toughest test for Van Gerwen in his half, with the Flying Scotsman taking the Players Championship Finals title in late November. The 2011 World Championship runner-up will face one of preliminary round qualifiers Mark McGrath of New Zealand or USA’s Scott Kirchner on December 20th, and is the 13/2 tournament third-favourite.

Past champions of the PDC World Championship Lewis (12/1 competition chance), Van Barneveld (40/1) and Canadian veteran John Part (500/1) are all in action, with the former duo facing relatively easy first round matches.

Lewis (odds-on at 1/16 to win his opener) takes on Dave Pallett on the 23rd, while Barney (2/7) duels with up-and-coming Austrian Rowby-John Rodriguez (13/5) the day before. Part (7/4), meanwhile, faces another darting prospect in World Youth champion Keegan Brown (4/9), 22, who made a memorable run in the Grand Slam of Darts this year and beat his upcoming opponent in both their previous meetings.

Current BDO world champion Stephen Bunting (20/1 tournament chance) is another to look out for, having sent waves through the sport especially since his switch to the PDC. The Englishman goes up against either Dutchman Jermaine Wattimena or Robert Marijanovic of Croatia first up in the final match of the first round on the 23rd.

Netherlands’ Christian Kist (200/1 to win) is another past champion of this tournament, but in the BDO version, and he faces compatriot Jelle Klaasen up first. He is slight odds-on favourite at 4/5 to beat him, with Klaasen priced at evens, with the winner likely to face Anderson in the last 32.

Another player to look out for is last year’s runner-up Peter Wright (33/1 tournament chance), who goes up against Welshman Gerwyn Price, who is a former rugby union professional. Snakebite is odds-on at 1/4 to beat him on the 19th.