Christmas is just around the corner and the festive season has come to be associated with one sporting event more than any other in recent times, the PDC World Darts Championship in London.
Alexandra Palace is now the home of the biggest tournament in professional darts with over £1.6million in prize money on offer, including a cool £350,000 cheque for the winner.
World number one Michael van Gerwen has enjoyed a scintillating 2016 and he starts as the 2/3 favourite with ComeOn! to win his second PDC world title.
The magical Dutchman has 25 tournament wins under his belt already this year but this is the one that he craves over all others.
With that craving comes a different sort of mental pressure and MVG has failed to contest a final in London over the last two years.
This year, van Gerwen finds himself on the tough side of the draw. Phil Taylor, Adrian Lewis and Raymond van Barneveld – the man that sent him packing 12 months ago in round three – all lurk, along with Robert Thornton and Simon Whitlock. Make no mistake, MVG is a strong favourite but this is no one-horse race.
Gary Anderson, 6/1 to win the tournament, goes in search of his third successive world crown. The Flying Scotsman has shed the nearly-man tag and is no longer besieged by finishing problems. Anderson won his finals against Taylor and Lewis while throwing a lesser three-dart average than both players, testament to his ability to hit the darts that matter these days.
Taylor is 17/2 to land his 17th world crown but it finally appears as though time has caught up with The Power. He retains plenty of ability but Taylor is much less likely to stand the test of the Ally Pally cauldron over a fortnight now.
Lewis too must contend with potentially having to battle both Taylor and van Gerwen just to reach the final. That said, Jackpot has been to at least the quarter-final in six of the last seven years with two wins and a runner-up finish last season. At 30/1 to win, Lewis could be the value in the top half.
As a potential saver, ComeOn! offer 7/1 that Lewis will be eliminated at the semi-final stage, the point where he is scheduled to meet van Gerwen.
Anderson dominates the bottom half of the draw but it could be worth siding with three-time semi-finalist James Wade – available at 33/1 to win his maiden world title. Winner of eight PDC majors, Wade is arguably the best player never to be world champion.
For one reason or another, it just hasn’t happened on this stage. The left-hander has the talent and last month’s run to the Grand Slam final, beating Anderson in the last-four, will have done his confidence the power of good.
There have been 23 PDC World Finals and while Taylor’s haul of 14 skews the stats, eight other Englishmen have contested finals, bringing the tally of English successes to 17 as they did. ComeOn! offers 11/4 that any English player will lift the Sid Waddell Trophy at Alexandra Palace on January 2nd.