Michael van Gerwen is looking to seal a fourth successive Unibet Masters title as the first major darts title of 2018 is decided in Milton Keynes.
The event will also see Rob Cross make his first appearance since capturing the world title as the world’s top 16 players will compete at Arena MK.
World number one Van Gerwen has claimed the title for the past three years – defeating Gary Anderson in a brilliant final 12 months ago – and will be aiming to retain the trophy and claim the £60,000 top prize.
Top seed Van Gerwen will open his challenge against Belgium’s Kim Huybrechts on Saturday January 27, as the top half of the draw take to the Arena MK stage.
Anderson, the number four seed, will play Dutch ace Benito van de Pas, while World Grand Prix champion Daryl Gurney makes his Masters debut against Gerwyn Price and Simon Whitlock plays 2014 champion James Wade.
New World Champion Cross makes his Masters debut in Friday’s opening night as the number three seed plays Ian White in their first round tie.
World number two Peter Wright takes on Alan Norris, Champions League of Darts winner Mensur Suljovic comes up against Michael Smith and Dave Chisnall plays 2015 finalist Raymond van Barneveld.
The tournament concludes on Sunday January 28, with the quarter-finals in the afternoon session and the semi-finals and final in the evening session at Arena MK.
(1) Michael van Gerwen v (16) Kim Huybrechts
(8) Simon Whitlock v (9) James Wade
(5) Daryl Gurney v (12) Gerwyn Price
(4) Gary Anderson v (13) Benito van de Pas
(2) Peter Wright v (15) Alan Norris
(7) Dave Chisnall v (10) Raymond van Barneveld
(6) Mensur Suljovic v (11) Michael Smith
(3) Rob Cross v (14) Ian White
We spoke to Unibet’s Alistair Gill to get a lowdown on their thoughts ahead of the weekend’s action
No surprise at all that once again the irrepressible MvG starts this tournament as odds on favourite at 8/11, despite the deep and talented field in behind him. Such is the weight of support from the Dutchman, 44% of all money we’ve seen coming for him, that he has actually shortened from 4/5 before a dart has been thrown.
However, patriotic Brits have also been paying attention to the sublime maiden victory for Rob Cross in the PDC World Championships, and he is following close on the heels of MvG for money taken with 43%, although he looks short enough for this one at 4/1.
These two are the only ones interesting the punters so far in the Outright market, with only Peter Wright seeing so much as a nibble at 13/2