Nicholson and Kellett could go all the way
If a huge shock occurs along the way and Phil Taylor does not make it to the final of the World Championships then the top half of the draw opens up brilliantly for the likes of Robert Thornton and Andy Hamilton, both of whom should kick off with a win on Saturday night.
Thornton is taking on the talented young German Max Hopp who already has some big name scalps on his record at the tender age of 17. Hopp was here last year and was close to knocking out Dennis Ovens in round one but narrowly lost out. Against a lesser member of the world’s top 32 and the German would be in with a great chance of victory, but Thornton is too good a player these days.
The Thorn is in the top 10 on the planet now and thoroughly deserves his place there and that is why he is just 1/7 with Sky Bet to progress. Hopp has the talent to pinch a set and if Thornton is going to romp through then he will have to be at his very best. Whether he is pushed or claims a whitewash there will be quality and over 6.5 180s looks good at 11/10 with Bet365.
Hamilton will be playing the winner of the preliminary between debutant Spaniard Julio Barbero and the much more experienced German Andree Welge. The latter should come through that one but Barbero outdid some high calibre opponents to reach the Ally Pally and should be no pushover. Over 5.5 legs in the prelim is EVENS with Sky Bet and is worth backing. Whoever does win though will certainly fall to the Hammer in the first round proper.
Then comes a battle between previously beaten world finalists in Gary Anderson and Mark Dudbridge. Anderson is the strong favourite and looks to be coming into some dangerous form; Dudbridge looks to be returning to form as well though so this one could be closer than many expect. It is a small price but it is worth backing over 3.5 sets in this one at 6/11 with Bwin.
Finally, what should be the closest battle of the evening sees Paul Nicholson take on Stuart Kellett. Nicholson is rightly favourite but KO Kellett is becoming more and more experienced on the big stage and is improving all the time. This one could go all the way to five sets and if not the sets played will be tight ones. Over 17.5 legs looks a fabulous offer at 11/10 with Ladbrokes and should be backed.
Robert Thornton v Max Hopp over 6.5 180s @ 11/10 with Bet365
Julio Barbero v Andree Welge over 5.5 legs @ EVENS with Sky Bet
Gary Anderson v Mark Dudbridge over 3.5 sets @ 6/11 with Bwin
Paul Nicholson v Stuart Kellett over 17.5 legs @ 11/10 with Ladbrokes
• MVG must hit the heights to beat Wright
• Lewis to get the better of MVG
• Wade and Lewis set for another classic
• Newton can out-180 Wright
• Saturday afternoon to be a 180-fest
• Whitlock and Painter to fire in the maximums
• Pipe to win dance-off with Petersen
• Jackpot and Dutch Destroyer to turn on the style
• Part no pushover for Newton
• Painter and Nicholson to go all the way
• Taylor bullied and beaten by Smith
• Burnett can push the Hammer in round two
• Barney and Caven could produce classic
• Webster in trouble against Suljovic
• Bomber Brown to destroy Smith
• MVG and Whitlock to stroll through
• Baxter to be swamped by Evans
• Caven to out Klaas Jelle
• Walsh in trouble against Komula
• Wright and Cullen can steal the show
• Taylor will prove he is still King of the world