Back Lewis for three-peat
Reece Killworth (Twitter: @reecekillworth) reckons Adrian Lewis can make it a hat-trick of titles at darts' Ladbrokes World Championship.
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Christmas is coming - and that means only one thing for the darts fans amongst us: the Ladbrokes World Championship is here.
All roads lead to Ally Pally with the first major sports world title of 2013 up for grabs - even though we're still over a fortnight away from the end of 2012!
And there's no surprise to see Phil Taylor chalked up as favourite.
You can get 2/1 on 'The Power' making it 16 world titles on the first day of the new year, and that'll no doubt be close to a mortgage job for some.
As always, it's not too difficult to make a case to back Taylor.
Success in the World Cup, Premier League, World Matchplay, German Darts Championship, Championship League Darts and Players Championship Finals means he finishes the year with six top-level titles to his name.
And as is his wont, he's rattled in nine-darters and the usual amount of ridiculously high ton-plus averages along the way - as an example his 117.35 against Simon Whitlock was the highest in the Premier League's history.
The fact is Taylor remains the best player in the world - underlined by his continued status as World No 1 - and on his day he still takes all the beating.
Anyone wanting reasons to back him really shouldn't be reading this preview.
But it's certainly fair to say that across the course of a year he has come back to the field somewhat and as good as he remains I think some of the fear factor has gone - particularly for the new breed of players bursting through.
And the fact I can make a case against him even at 2/1 is telling.
As good as Taylor has been in general across the year, don't forget he exited here 12 months ago to Dave Chisnall in just the second round.
And he departed at the same stage of the World Grand Prix over in Dublin as recently as October, beaten on that occasion by Robert Thornton.
Why is that relevant? Well that's the other major event that is played over sets not legs, and it's that format that Taylor hasn't truly convinced in of late.
Yes, he won the Grand Prix last year, but that's the only time he's won a set-format major in five attempts, dating back to October 2010.
Two years ago, Mark Webster accounted for him in the quarter-finals here while his fellow Stokie Adrian Lewis ousted him at the 2010 GP.
And while plenty of players would give their right arm (albeit not literally!) to have such a record, it's got to be borne in mind for Taylor backers.
Taylor does at least have the chance to ease his way into this tournament and it'd be a HUGE surprise if he exits in either of the first two rounds this year.
But Thornton is a potential opponent in just the third round, while the likes of Chisnall and Whitlock could lie in wait further down the stretch.
As I've said on numerous occasions, Taylor remains the likeliest winner of the tournament and as such I'll swerve an outright bet in his half of the draw - but it's no banker for me and I don't need too much persuasion to look elsewhere.
My radar falls on Taylor's protege Adrian Lewis.
I can see why Michael van Gerwen has been installed as second-favourite on form as he's had a quite brilliant year but I think it's wrong to overlook the fact Lewis has gone course and distance here twice in successive years.
Van Gerwen exited in the first round two years ago but did at least win a couple of matches 12 months ago before exiting to Whitlock.
He's a better player now than then, of course, but - for all his brilliance in winning the World Grand Prix and reaching the Grand Slam final - it's worth recalling that his most recent major outing ended in a second-round exit.
The same goes for Lewis, granted, but losing to Taylor is less surprising than a defeat by Andy Hamilton, though that's not to talk 'The Hammer' down.
What Lewis has done in the last two years is produce his best at the worlds and that's a quality that simply cannot be underestimated.
Twelve months ago I wrote that 'Jackpot' hadn't kicked on in the manner people had hoped after securing his first world title at the 2011 renewal - and the same is certainly true one year on after his second.
He did at least win the World Cup with Taylor and the German Masters alone - but his performances at the televised majors haven't been up to the high standards he sets himself.
Lewis has proven he can peak for the big one, though, and the draw has certainly been kind to him in the early stages of the tournament this time.
Though there are talented players in his section and I could live to regret this, I don't see a real threat until a likely quarter-final clash with van Gerwen.
Of course, the Dutchman could be bang in form by then, but I think given his prior experiences on this stage, I'd still favour Lewis for that one.
And after that I don't see an opponent as good until the final. If Taylor makes it, Lewis has beaten him previously and won't show fear while there's obviously also the possibility that someone will take care of the great man along the way.
Unfortunately the 14/1 the sponsors laid early on Lewis has gone but 12/1 is too big for the two-time defending champion and he's my headline tip, with the insurance of backing each-way returning a tidy profit for a final appearance.
Elsewhere, after Kim Huybrechts rewarded my faith with his run to the Players Championship Finals, I was looking to get him onside again - he's 11/2 in the quarter betting and looked a decent each-way punt at 40s - but the sudden death of his father earlier this week has certainly affected my thinking.
As if we needed evidence, we've seen previously with Mervyn King and Gary Anderson how a family tragedy can affect a player on the oche and anyone thinking of backing Huybrechts should certainly bear the above in mind.
He's in the fourth quarter for those interested and with Taylor expected to come through Q1 and Lewis Q3, the other value bet looks to be in Q2.
Sure, he may be the market-leader in this particular field but Simon Whitlock has to be worth our support at 9/4 doesn't he?
The Australian has reached the semi-finals (at least) in two of his three appearances at Ally Pally, so is clearly a fan of playing at this venue.
He's also proved he's in decent nick by winning a major title - his first in the PDC - at the European Championship after previous final appearances in the World Cup, Premier League and Championship League earlier in the year.
There shouldn't be anything for the 'Beard to be Feared' to fear until at least the third-round stage here and Chisnall, his potential opponent at that stage, certainly hasn't matched the heights he achieved last year.
Anderson, Raymond van Barneveld and Brendan Dolan are all potential opponents down the line but it's fair to say all three have their flaws.
Anderson remains frustratingly inconsistent on the big stage, Barney has to prove his run at the Grand Slam wasn't just a one-off and Dolan, though probably the most consistent of the trio, has never past the second round here.
Whitlock should be shorter than 9/4 in my eyes, so we'll get involved.