Champions League of Darts Preview
This weekend the BBC will be broadcasting a new PDC tournament called the Champions League of Darts (sponsored by Unibet). The tournament is being held at the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff, with live coverage on BBC One and BBC Two on September 24-25.
The tournament features the top eight players from the PDC Order of Merit. The eight players are split into two groups of four; the top two from each group will progress to the semi-finals where it will be a straight knockout to decide the winner of the tournament.
The two groups consist of the following players:
Michael van Gerwen
World number one and the sports current dominant player, winner of 5 tournaments during September alone, odds on to win the tournament with the bookies, without doubt the man to beat this weekend.
The 16 time champion of the World no longer carries the fear factor that he used to, but Taylor is still a force to be reckoned with and his recent win in the Sydney Masters where he beat van Gerwen in the final shows he can’t be written off as a potential winner here.
An unmistakable figure on the oche due to his colourful appearance, has been one of the most consistent players on the tour over the last few years but a big TV tournament win has eluded Wright so far mainly due to him running into van Gerwen.
Winner of last year’s World Grand Prix, former winner of the World Masters and UK Open. Thornton has shown he can win on the big TV stages but he hasn’t been showing any of the form during 2016 that brought him those successes and it would be a huge surprise if he finished higher than fourth in the group.
Current world champion (having won the title in consecutive years) Anderson has beaten van Gerwen in two World Series of Darts finals during 2016. When on the top of his game he is without doubt capable of winning this tournament.
Lewis is a two time world champion (2011 and 2012) and also reached the world final earlier this year when he lost to Anderson. A proven winner with so much talent but can lack consistency and doesn’t always produce his best game at the right time. Has the potential to have a run to the final but it will be a tough task.
Winner of multiple big TV tournaments over the last 10 years and has wins to his name against van Gerwen, Anderson and Taylor in TV tournaments during 2016. Wade is one of the best ton plus finishers in the game.
Smith is a former world youth champion and a three time winner on the European Tour but has only gone further than the quarter-finals in a big TV tournament on one occasion (he reached the semis at the 2015 Grand Slam). Hasn’t shown his best form during 2016 but will need to do so if he is to be competitive in his group.
There can be no argument that van Gerwen, Anderson, Lewis, Taylor, Wright and Wade are well deserving of their place in the tournament, there are many who will question that Smith and Thornton should be in the field, neither have produced their best darts this season with Thornton in particular way off the form he showed when winning the World Grand Prix last October. It is true that Smith and Thornton are both capable of beating any of the other players in the tournament but there are strong cases for other players to have been included ahead of them on the basis of form and success during 2016, still the criteria was set in advance and there would always be some debate over who could and should have been included.
Some people will complain that this is just another tournament containing the same old faces similar to the Premier League and World Series of Darts tournaments. What this tournament offers which is different to those events is that with the coverage shown live on the BBC it is showcasing PDC darts to a different and wider audience and that surely can’t be a bad thing.
It is clear to me that we will be seeing the six best players in the World (regardless of code) in this tournament, the BBC has been showing the Lakeside World Championship and the World Masters year on year but this will be the strongest field of players in a BBC televised darts tournament in my opinion (certainly in over 22 years) and will truly showcase the highest level that the sport has to offer.
Here is the tournament schedule.
Saturday September 24
First Group Matches
Gary Anderson v Michael Smith (B)
Adrian Lewis v James Wade (B)
Phil Taylor v Peter Wright (A)
Michael van Gerwen v Robert Thornton (A)
Second Group Matches
Afternoon session’s Winners play each other, and Losers play each other.
Sunday September 25
Final Group Matches
Group Matches are played over the best of 19 legs
Semi-Finals & Final are played over the best of 21 legs
Here’s a table giving a small form guide which shows how each player has performed over their last 20 matches on a TV stage.
Finally here are my predictions for the tournament.
Michael van Gerwen 10-6 Robert Thornton
Phil Taylor 10-9 Peter Wright
Michael van Gerwen 10-8 Phil Taylor
Peter Wright 10-7 Robert Thornton
Michael van Gerwen 10-7 Peter Wright
Phil Taylor 10-5 Robert Thornton
Qualifiers: Michael van Gerwen and Phil Taylor
Gary Anderson 10-6 Michael Smith
Adrian Lewis 8-10 James Wade
Gary Anderson 10-7 James Wade
Adrian Lewis 10-7 Michael Smith
Gary Anderson 10-8 Adrian Lewis
James Wade 10-7 Michael Smith
Qualifiers: Gary Anderson and James Wade
Michael van Gerwen 11-7 James Wade
Gary Anderson 11-8 Phil Taylor
Michael van Gerwen 11-9 Gary Anderson
I hope you enjoyed reading my guide, here’s hoping the tournament is a huge success and that we see some high quality darts with competitive matches throughout. Don’t forget to catch me on twitter @3dartanalyst.