The Champions League of Darts returns for a third outing this weekend, and has a new home in the form of Brighton.
Although not a ranking event, the tournament still holds major significance, with the competition being the only one broadcast on the BBC during the year. It also acts as an excellent barometer for the world’s top eight and perhaps surprisingly is one of the few televised tournaments that Michael van Gerwen hasn’t previously triumphed in.
This year will be the first tournament without the eponymous Phil Taylor.
Defending Champion Mensur Suljovic opens up against World Champion and Rileys perennial favourite Rob Cross on Saturday afternoon. Neither fared well in their most recent tournaments, with the Austrian losing in the last 16 to Danny Noppert, while Cross departed in the last 64 of a Pro Tour event at the hands of Simon Stevenson.
Australian Simon Whitlock is fresh from reaching the Final of the International Darts Open in Riesa and takes on Snakebite Peter Wright in his opener. Wright departed from that same tournament in the last 32 in an upset loss to the ever improving Ryan Searle.
Wright has won his last five games against Whitlock but has lost his last four to Mensur Suljovic.
Titles this year
Mensur Suljovic – 2 – German Darts Masters World Series, Danish Open
Rob Cross – 3 – World Championship, Pro Tour event 13, Brisbane Darts Masters
Peter Wright – 3 – Pro Tour events 14 & 17, Melbourne Masters
Simon Whitlock – 0 – but two runners-up finishes in the International and Danish Opens.
Two-time World Champion Gary Anderson lines up against World Gran Prix champion Daryl Gurney in Group B’s opening round. Anderson has been in prolific form this year with seven title wins in his name. Gurney by contrast has two final appearances to his name in 2018 as his best outings.
The imperious Michael van Gerwen takes on Dave Chisnall to conclude the afternoon’s action on Saturday. The World Number one has no less than 17 title to his name this year including the Premier League and the Masters. There have been chinks in the seemingly impenetrable armour however, with early exits in the Matchplay and UK Open at the hands of countryman Jeffrey de Dwaan surely shows. Chizzy fans may be alarmed to learn he has lost 4 out of his last 5 competitive matches.
Chisnall hasn’t won against van Gerwen in his last 20 attempts, hasn’t won in his last five against Anderson or last two against Gurney. Van Gerwen holds a similar hoodoo over Gurney having won 9 of their last ten matches, the game being a draw in the Premier League back in April.
Titles this year
Gary Anderson – 7 – including the World Matchplay and UK Open
Michael van Gerwen – 17 – including the Premier League and the Masters
Dave Chisnall – 0 – one runner-up finish of the 6th Pro Tour event
Daryl Gurney – 0 – two runner-up finishes of Pro Tour events
The eight competitors are split into two groups, with the top two from each progressing through to the semi-finals
After the opening round’s action, the first round winners will play one another and the losers will also square off.
Sunday’s afternoon session will see the conclusion of the group matches, with the evening featuring the semi-finals and final.
The prize fund
Third In Group £15,000
Fourth In Group £10,000
The Champions League of Darts will be broadcast on the BBC on Saturday and Sunday. You’ll be able to see all the action in Rileys Sports Bars.