World Darts Championship: Wayne Mardle picks six exciting first-round matches
Coverage underway on Sky Sports Darts from Thursday, December 14
Last Updated: 07/12/17 11:35pm
Banana skins! Wayne Mardle casts his eye over the best first-round ties at the World Darts Championship...
World Darts Championship schedule
Michael van Gerwen against Christian Kist headlines the opening night of the World Darts Championship
There are some crackers, including matches that may not be seen as the bigger names. James Wilson v Krzysztof Ratajski, Steve Beaton v William O'Connor and Jelle Klaasen v Jan Dekker are games that should be great between evenly-matched players.
I cannot see Michael van Gerwen getting troubled. It could have been different but it is so unfortunate that Christian Kist has arthritis - he may have a good day but he is not in a position to challenge Michael.
I am massively looking forward to it - there are a few in the first round that stand out and really capture the imagination for different reasons.
Stephen Bunting v Dimitri Van den Bergh
Friday, December 15
I make Stephen favourite as he is playing well again, but Dimitri is the World Youth champion and averaged 100 in doing so against Josh Payne.
It is time for Dimitri to kick on. He sort of promised this last year and fell by the wayside a little bit, but it looks like he has started to recapture a bit of form, just at the right time.
It should be a great game.
Phil Taylor v Chris Dobey
Friday, December 15
It is Phil's last Worlds and it could have been easier! He will not get it all his own way against Chris Dobey.
You would think that Phil wins it but if he does lose the first set and then starts to get edgy... it has happened in recent World Championships where he has been a little bit flaky early on.
Phil is a potential winner, of course he is, but Chris Dobey really is a banana skin for him and he won't be looking forward to it.
Gary Anderson v Luke Humphries/Jeff Smith
Saturday, December 16
Gary will have a difficult game, no matter who wins the preliminary-round match between Humphries and Smith.
Jeff is a former BDO World Championship runner-up and Luke won the Challenge Tour Order of Merit - this time last year that was Rob Cross.
I doubt Luke is as good. If he is then we are in for a treat but he is a very good darts player.
Mervyn King v Zoran Lerchbacher
Saturday, December 16
The one outsider who I think is going to win is Lerchbacher, who people will not really know unless they are religious viewers of all darts like those of us who do our research.
Zoran is massively improved and Mervyn is not playing well.
It may not be the most exciting on paper but it is a must watch for me as these matches can tell you how good someone can be.
Zoran is underestimated and if he can beat Mervyn it might be the catalyst for him to believe in himself a bit more.
Keegan Brown v James Wade
Sunday, December 17
Not only is this a hard one to pick, it is an odd one to pick and to anyone thinking of having a bet…don't!
Many people will think Keegan has a great shot against James because James is not playing well, but Keegan has not been playing well either.
If one of them was to win 3-0 it wouldn't surprise me, but equally if one was to win 3-2 it wouldn't surprise me - absolutely any outcome is possible in this one.
Peter Wright v Diogo Portela
Thursday, December 21
This will be another game where people will totally underestimate Diogo because he hasn't really done it on the big stage.
But he is winning a lot of Opens - they may not be Tour events but to do it you need to beat the lesser players well and that is confidence-boosting in itself.
Diogo is rightfully an outsider to beat Wright, the second seed and the UK Open champion, but Peter will be wary of the threat.
Darts updates straight to your phone
How to receive all the latest darts news straight to your mobile
The 2018 World Championship from Alexandra Palace starts on Thursday, December 14 and ends New Year's Day.
Keep up to date with the news as the PDC celebrates 25 years on Sky Sports. So get all the latest at www.skysports.com/darts and join in the conversation @SkySportsDarts - don't forget to use #LoveTheDarts