The halfway stage of the X-Factor is rapidly approaching and Italian crooner Andrea Faustini has the title locked in a vice-like chokehold.
At least according to the bookmakers, who have the Pug-lover as clear 6/4 favourite heading into week four.
His block-rocking version of Beyonce’s Listen last time out conveyed an unerring message to the field and, for the bulk, their dreams of becoming the next Matt Cardle, Steve Brookstein or Leon Jackson will wilt into floods of tears on Dermot O’Leary’s shoulder as the weeks pass by.
The boy’s sporting one serious set of pipes, we’ll give him that, but he’s far from invincible in the cutthroat world of TV talent shows where only the strongest survive.
A handful of contestants have demonstrated a capability to wrestle glory from the clutches of Faustini.
One of which is 16/1 shot Paul Akister.
Another member of Mel B’s boys contingent, the Lancastrian has already proven his mettle after being bounced in the auditions for Series 10 by Louis Walsh.
Upon his return a year later, Simon Cowell handed a reprieve to the 25-year-old and a string of sparkling performances in the opening three works suggests he means business.
Former winner Alexandra Burke trod an identical path, overcoming audition rejection to win the judges’ favour at a later date, before going on to claim the richest prize in (British) showbiz.
Like Faustini, Akister has successfully swerved the weekly sing off with ease too, while his ability to get those toes tapping with uplifting renditions of timeless classics gives him the upper hand on the man the bookies fear the most.
Churning out ballad after ballad, the Italian is something of a one-trick pony and by the latter stages, it’s ease to envisage him hitting impossibly high notes wearing thinner than a skinflint’s carpet when it comes to the crunch.