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World Darts Championship day 15 preview: Gabriel Clemens one win from final spot

From a field of 96 a fortnight back, just four players are left standing as we reach semi-finals night of the World Darts Championship.

Three-time winner Michael van Gerwen, the only former champion left in and 1/2 to reclaim the trophy he last lifted four years ago, takes on Dimitri van den Bergh in a battle of the Low Countries.

But before that Gabriel Clemens, the first German to ever get this far, will attempt to complete his fairytale ride by seeing off last year's beaten finalist Michael Smith.

Can Clemens shut out Smith in opener?

What: Gabriel Clemens v Michael Smith
Where: Alexandra Palace, London
When: Monday 2nd January, 2023
How to watch: Sky Sports Main Event & Arena
Odds: Gabriel Clemens 12/5, Michael Smith 1/3

Gabriel Clemens has done what no other German has ever done on the stage of the biggest darts tournament in the world, but has the big man from the Saarland got one last card to play?

The pre-tournament 300/1 shot, now a 12/1 chance, has seen off a stack of class acts to become the first man from his country to reach the semis, and now the German Giant has fourth seed Michael Smith standing between him and becoming the least likely finalist since Kirk Shepherd.

Clemens is playing - arguably - better than Smith yet is a 12/5 chance and there are plenty of reasons for that.

First, of course, Smith has the pedigree. He's a major winner, a two-time finalist, wins tour titles galore and has spent the last five years and more starring on the biggest stages in front of the most raucous crowds.

Second, Clemens has generally had the crowd on his side (or at least not against him) as he has worked his way past an Irishman, two Welshmen and a Scot to get to the last four. Now he takes on an Englishman, in front of an English crowd.

Put it this way, Bully Boy won't be reduced to wearing headphones as Gerwyn Price was against Clemens in a vain attempt to drown out the noise of a crowd who were anti-Gezzy from the off.

Smith needs to find a true spark

But while Smith won't be battling the crowd, he will be fighting his own form, which he must improve if he is to land odds of 1/3.

He has shown plenty of fight during this year's championships - his comeback from 3-1 down against another German, Martin Schindler, to win 4-3 in round three was hugely impressive.

And he has seen off, despite never having hit top gear, Joe Cullen and Stephen Bunting, two men who were playing some seriously good darts.

His match against Cullen was the only time he had averaged over 97 and he actually trails Clemens in terms of tournament average.

Smith has also "only" hit 25 maximums, the same as the German, so it's clearly the potential rather than the reality that earns the St Helens chucker a 4/9 quote in the most 180s market.

It's a race to six now, best-of-11, and the 4/7 that there are over 8.5 sets looks a certainty - unless, of course, Smith catches fire. And unless, of course, the reality of quite what he has done finally gets to the German 25th seed.

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What: Dimitri van den Bergh v Michael van Gerwen
Where: Alexandra Palace, London
When: Monday 2nd January, 2023
How to watch: Sky Sports Main Event & Arena
Odds: Dimitri Van den Bergh 9/2, Michael van Gerwen 1/7

If there are any number of questions surrounding the first semi-final, then the second looks considerably more clear-cut.

Michael van Gerwen was the pre-tournament favourite and everything he has done over the past fortnight has confirmed that he is the best player in the field and back to close to his very best.

Four matches played, four ton-plus averages recorded, just three sets dropped and in his 5-0 whitewash of Chris Dobey in the quarters he gave up only three legs.

He's now 1/7 to beat Dimitri Van den Bergh, an extraordinary price given the serenity of the Belgian's progress to the last four, but it almost seems folly taking on the Dutchman.

Indeed, a 6-0 Van Gerwen correct-score is only marginally bigger at 11/2 than Van den Bergh is to merely win the match.

Van den Bergh has played Van Gerwen four times in 2022 and lost the lot and his progress through the tournament has been steady if unspectacular.

Steady against MVG right now just isn't anywhere near good enough.

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