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World Darts Championship Final Preview

After 15 days of tungsten action Michael van Gerwen and Michael Smith will clash in the final of the 2023 World Darts Championship at Alexandra Palace.

It’s a showdown that many expected, with van Gerwen having started the tournament as the 5/2 market leader, with Smith third in the outright betting at 7/1.

What: Michael Smith v Michael van Gerwen
Where: Alexandra Palace, London
When: 20:00, Tuesday 3rd January 2023
How to watch: Sky Sports Main Event & Arena
Odds: Michael Smith 5/2, Michael van Gerwen 3/10

Van Gerwen knows what it takes to lift the biggest prize in darts, having beaten Peter Wright, Gary Anderson and Smith to be crowned world champion in 2014, 2017 and 2019.

'Bully Boy' has twice been a beaten PDC World Championship finalist, having also lost out to Wright last year, but the St Helens man will be hoping to draw on those experiences and go one better this time.

By 'MVG’s' high standards it had been a pretty lean run at the Ally Pally and the 'Green Machine' is bidding to lift the Sid Waddell for the first time since 2019.

However, since being forced to withdraw from last year’s event due to Covid-19, the Dutchman has looked back to his brilliant best over the last 12 months.

The Dutchman has already won the World Matchplay, World Grand Prix, Players Championship Finals and Premier League this season and is heavily fancied to add the World Championship to that impressive haul.

Green Machine has made relentless progress

It has been an entertaining Alexandra Palace extravaganza, but it couldn’t be described as a competitive competition for van Gerwen.

'MVG' averaged 101.84 to beat Lewy Williams 3-0 in the second round, before upping it to 107.66 to dismiss Mensur Suljovic 4-2 in round three.

As far as tests go, that clash against the Austrian is as tough as it has been for 'MVG' at Alexandra Palace, and it has been serene progress to the final for the Dutchman. 

Van Gerwen cruised past fellow Dutchman Dirk van Duijvenbode 4-1 in round four, before crushing Chris Dobey 5-0 in the quarter-finals.

It’s hard to think that 'MVG' could be any more comfortable and impressive in the semi-finals, but that is exactly what the 'Green Machine' was in his last-four clash with Dimitri van den Bergh.

'Mighty Mike' destroyed the 'DreamMaker' 6-0, hitting nine 180s, a 170 checkout and he recorded a tournament-high average of 108.28. If he is saving his best for last, it could be a tough night for Smith.

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Smith battles his way to third final

'Bully Boy' has been made to work harder for his place in the final and, if truth be told, the St Helens man is pretty fortunate to still be in the tournament. 

Smith started his campaign with a comfortable 3-0 victory over Nathan Rafferty, but things were far trickier in the third round.

Martin Schindler led 'Bully Boy' 3-1 in their first-to-four clash and Smith appeared to be on the ropes. However, the 32-year-old was able to fight back and progress as a narrow 4-3 winner.

Joe Cullen put him under some early pressure in their fourth-round tie, but the 'Rockstar' was unable to maintain that level and Smith moved through with a 103.25 three-dart average and a comfortable 4-1 victory.

A quarter-final clash with Stephen Bunting proved far more competitive and if the 'Bullet' had been more clinical with his opportunities he may well have caused Smith even more problems.

However, Smith once again showed his battling qualities and reached the semis with a 5-3 triumph and a 91.63 average.

Smith upped that pretty mediocre three-dart average to 101.85 in the face of stiff resistance from Gabriel Clemens in the semis.

That was probably 'Bully Boy’s' most impressive performance in the tournament so far and it came under pressure against an opponent that was also operating at a high level.

Final conclusions

Van Gerwen has shown better form in this year’s Alexandra Palace extravaganza and if that is taken in isolation 'MVG' is expected to be lifting the Sid Waddell Trophy on Tuesday evening. However, Smith has the game to match 'Mighty Mike', if he can find his best form. 

Clearly, 'Bully Boy' has often struggled to replicate his top-level performances in major tournament finals, but the St Helens man was crowned Grand Slam of Darts champion last year and that should give him confidence going into the final.

There is also a different dynamic to tonight’s game. 

So often Smith is the favourite and with that comes the pressure and expectation to perform and triumph. However, that boot is on van Gerwen’s foot this evening and, while 'MVG' has dealt with expectation perfectly well throughout his career, we may see Smith’s level rise.

There’s a feeling that we may get a closely-fought drawn-out finale at the Ally Pally and tungsten fans should be treated to a night full of darting drama, with van Gerwen 11/2 to win 7-5 and 7/1 to come out on top in a final-set decider.

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