Players Championship Finals preview

Sports Mole previews this weekend's Players Championship Finals in Minehead.

The penultimate major tournament of the year kicks off on Friday as Minehead hosts the sixth staging of the Players Championship Finals.

The competition includes the top 32 players from the Pro Tour events that have been played around Europe throughout the year, ensuring that the seeding system for the event could throw up some interesting ties in the early stages.

Below, Sports Mole takes a look at who the main contenders are in Somerset, and how the draw could pan out just two weeks before the World Championship begins at the Alexandra Palace.

Main contenders

Sixteen-time world champion Phil Taylor inevitably goes into the event as the clear favourite to win his fourth Players Championship Finals crown, even though he enters the tournament as the 19th seed.

The 53-year-old has rarely featured on the Pro Tour this season, but he was never in danger of failing to qualify, but his seeding has resulted in the Stoke-on-Trent thrower being handed a challenging draw to make the final.

Phil Taylor of Britain reacts as he takes part in the PDC World Championship darts final against Michael van Gerwen of the Netherlands on January 1, 2013© Getty Images

Taylor faces Paul Nicholson in the first round, and should he come through that, he will meet either Peter Wright or Michael Smith in the second round. A last-eight date with Raymond van Barneveld or Robert Thornton could await, with Gary Anderson or Simon Whitlock being potential semi-final opponents.

Michael van Gerwen goes into the competition as the number one seed after amassing over £125,000 away from the television cameras this season, but the Dutchman looks likely to meet Adrian Lewis in the second round on Saturday evening.

James Wade and Wes Newton are also in the same quarter of the draw, leaving several big names certain to be exiting the competition before Sunday, where the final eight players will compete for the trophy.

Dark horses

With three of the four quarters stacked with multiple major winners, the second quarter appears to be the place to be, and Kim Huybrechts looks to be the man to benefit from being the number five seed.

The Belgian opens up against Terry Jenkins, but if he can come through that potential banana skin, he is capable of sweeping through to the semi-finals with plenty still in the tank.

Kim Huybrechts of Belgium celebrates beating Paul Nicholson of England during Day 12 of the 2012 Ladbrokes.com World Darts Championship at Alexandra Palace on December 29, 2011© Getty Images

He could still clash with the in-form Brendan Dolan or Andy Hamilton, but after his recent Dutch Masters win, as well as a quarter-final appearance at the Grand Slam of Darts, he has an excellent chance of reaching his second successive final at this tournament.

Dave Chisnall also has the potential to have an extended run in the tournament. The 33-year-old was disappointing in Wolverhampton earlier this month, but he responded by winning a Pro Tour event in Barnsley.

The draw hasn't been kind to the World Grand Prix runner-up, but if he gets on a run, one of the biggest scorers in the game could be tough to stop.

Prediction

This tournament has proven in the past that the forthcoming World Championship can provide enough distraction for the top players not to produce their 'A' game.

However, Taylor's form has been that formidable of late that he is beginning to re-create the fear factor that he has held throughout his career, and even if Taylor doesn't produce his best darts, he could still win this competition.

Taylor is sure to dominate this event, but any number of players have a chance to face him in the final. We're going for Taylor to beat Huybrechts in the Sunday's showpiece.

Phil Taylor of Britain reacts as he takes part in the PDC World Championship darts final against Michael van Gerwen of the Netherlands on January 1, 2013
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