World Darts Championship: Michael van Gerwen stars on Tuesday at Alexandra Palace
By Paul Higham Twitter: @SkySportsPaulH. Last Updated: 17/12/13 11:41pm
Michael van Gerwen tells us he has to be considered one of the favourites
Michael van Gerwen makes his entrance into the World Darts Championship on Tuesday at Alexandra Palace as he looks to go one better than last year when he was the beaten finalist.
'Mighty Mike' could hardly be in better shape heading into the tournament, not only with the confidence of making the final last time out but also with a recent win over Phil Taylor in the Players Championship final.
After also beating 'The Power' en route to claiming the Premier League title, van Gerwen now knows he can beat the great man in major finals - he just needs to go out and show he can do it on the grandest stage of all.
Colin Lloyd v Beau Anderson
Zoran Lerchbacher v Ben Ward (P)
Vincent van der Voort v Matt Clark
Michael van Gerwen v Lerchbacher/Ward
Simon Whitlock v Ross Smith
It certainly looks like an easy start for the World No 2 as van Gerwen faces the winner of the preliminary match between Zoran Lerchbacher and Ben Ward, although Taylor may have thought the same before he was given a huge fright by Rob Szarbo.
Van Gerwen still is a massive 1/100 favourite regardless of who he faces, but with his price for the title being price boosted by Sky Bet to 7/2 then the time would be now to get on before he gets his bid under way.
He tweeted: "This is a great World Championship so far. Looking forward to my game tonight. I play on @SkySports around 9.30. Can't wait!
"I'm really excited and I'm very confident," added the Dutch ace. "I'll need to prepare myself well and I can't underestimate whoever I play in the first round.
"Winning the Players Championship Finals was great for my confidence and it showed everyone that I can still win tournaments, and they need to watch out for me in the World Championship.
"There are so many good players, though, that anything can happen and you need to play really well to win."
2010 finalist Simon Whitlock is also on stage on Tuesday, and the 'Beard to be Feared' could face a big test with Challenge Tour Order of Merit winner Ross Smith his first round opponent.
Whitlock was affected badly by his Grand Slam defeat to Ted Hankey when he lost 10-9 after leading 6-1, and Smith has stuck in a nine-darter in Gibraltar recently showing he's no mug and at 4/1 could provide another upset.
Former World No 1 Colin Lloyd hasn't had much jot in 2013, with a semi-final run at the Austrian Darts Open his best result so far, but he's the 4/11 favourite to win his first round tie against Beau Anderson.
The Australian, who is 21/10 to cause an upset, is the brother of Kyle, who has already made a huge impact in this tournament when throwing a nine-darter despite losing to Ian White on Saturday - so Beau needs a big performance to take the family bragging rights.
Don't blink or you might miss the match between Vincent van der Voort and Matt Clark, with the Dutchman being the fastest man on the oche and also the 4/9 favourite to take this one.
Clark, though, who goes by the name 'Superman' has been around a long time and is a former Lakeside quarter-finalist so is no mug, but the 7/4 shot will need all his super powers to slow the big Dutchman down especially if van der Voort can get his doubles going.
Catch all the darts action on Tuesday December 17 live on Sky Sports 2 from 7pm.