The 23rd annual Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) World Darts Championship gets underway at the Alexandra Palace on the 17th December, with a £300,000 first prize awaiting the winner. Featuring 52 of the world’s best players, and 20 international qualifiers, this year’s tournament promises to be the most exhilarating yet. The favourite – as ever – is Dutchman, Michael van Gerwen. The 26-year- old from Boxtel in the Netherlands has enjoyed a sterling year on the circuit, picking up five major honours, including two of the three most recent tournaments, the European Championship and the Grand Slam of Darts. His accumulated prize money for the current season stands at approximately £1.3m, and as such it is no surprise that he is a strong favourite to wrestle back the crown he first wore in 2014.

Standing in his way is current champion, Gary Anderson. The Scotsman claimed his inaugural world title last year, defeating Phil Taylor 7-6 in a pulsating encounter despite trailing 4-3 at the half-way stage. ‘The Flying Scotsman’, as he is known, has, however, endured a difficult 11 months. After picking up the World Championship at the start of the year, Anderson has made it past the third round of the season’s eight major competitions just four times, falling at the second round stage twice. For a world champion, Anderson has been far too inconsistent, and he’ll be hoping for a succession of favourable draws in the early rounds of the tournament to see him advance through to the latter stages.

One player he will be hoping to avoid, however, is the man he beat in last year’s final, Phil Taylor. The 16 time champion of the world last relinquished his crown in 2014, and as such will be eager for one final shot at glory in his advancing years. The 55-year-old has shown signs of weakness in recent times, and his 16-13 defeat to Michael van Gerwen in last month’s Grand Slam means that for the first time since 1994, ‘The Power’ currently holds no PDC major honours. Despite a poor 2015 by his own high standards, Taylor remains a dominant force and will be amongst the contenders once more.

Completing the field of favourites is the eclectic Peter Wright. The second Scotsman after Anderson in our preview, Wright has been in fine form over the course of 2015 and has made it to the semi-finals of three separate major competitions, finishing runner up to van Gerwen at the UK Open. His power scoring and accurate finishing has enabled him to pick up three Players’ Championship events in the past eleven months, allowing the 45-year-old to rise to an impressive fourth in the rankings. After his world final defeat to van Gerwen at the Alexandra Palace in 2014, Wright will be gunning for another impressive run in this year’s competition.

Amongst the remainder of the seeds, Adrian Lewis and Stephen Bunting both have a point to prove after poor seasons. Lewis’s only major success this year was in the Auckland Darts Masters, and he needs to recapture the form that saw him become back-to-back world champion in 2011 and 2012 if he’s to have any hope this time around. Bunting, meanwhile, has shown promise since coming across from the BDO in 2014, but is yet to make it past the semi-final stage of a PDC competition.

Elsewhere, Robert Thornton, James Wade and Raymond van Barneveld will all be looking for an extended run in the competition, while Australian Kyle Anderson heads up the best of the Pro Tour qualifiers.

A number of younger players will also be looking for their first extended run at the worlds, with Max Hopp, Gerwyn Price and Keegan Brown the pick of the young pretenders.