In case you weren’t aware, darts has its very own version of the Champions League.. known as… wait for it… The Champions League of Darts!
Eight of the finest players on the planet will duke it out over two days at the Brighton Centre for the chance to be crowned a Champions League winner. As if that wasn’t motivation enough to dethrone defending champion Mensur Suljovic, there is also an opportunity to pocket a winner’s cheque worth a cool £100,000. Not bad for two days work!
If you’re at a loose end on September 22-23 then good news: the tournament will be broadcast live on the BBC. This is the only time you will be able to watch PDC darts on terrestrial television in the UK.
Tournament History & Format
The eight combatants of the Champions League of Darts come from the PDC Tour Order of Merit; happily, reigning champion Suljovic was in that octet already. They are split into two groups of four, with each player taking on their ‘groupmates’ in a round robin format. The top two from each section then proceed to the semi-finals. Then, the winner of Group A takes on the runner-up of Group B, and vice versa. Each of the group matches is a best-of-19 leg affair, and that increases to 21 legs for the knockout phase.
There have been just two previous editions of the Champions League of Darts. Phil Taylor – remember him? – Won the inaugural contest in 2016. He trounced Michael van Gerwen 11-5 in the final; then, 12 months later, it was the turn of Mensur to hold his nerve and see off Gary Anderson 11-9 to claim his first major title.
Suljovic defends….and the great and good of world darts are lining up to knock him down from his perch. Michael van Gerwen, Gary Anderson and Rob Cross, all of whom missed the International Darts Open, will head to the south coast with one eye on lifting the trophy ahead of a busy period for PDC dartists. That quartet will be joined by Peter Wright, the number two seed, Simon Whitlock, Dave Chisnall and Daryl Gurney.
The groups are as follows:
Group A – MVG, Anderson, Gurney, Chisnall
Group B – Wright, Cross, Suljovic, Whitlock
The Betting Favourites
Whatever strategy you’re going in with, the odds are looking great for some of the top players. Van Gerwen has averaged over 100 in five of the eight matches he has played in this tournament; even so, this trophy is yet to grace his mantelpiece. The Dutchman, who is the rudimentary 10/11 favourite with William Hill and a number of other firms, will be looking to rectify that in Brighton.
It’s not only Van Gerwen to watch though. Anderson, the World Matchplay champion, comes into the tournament with a hot hand and an eye-catching price of 9/2 with Betsafe. Also, world champion Rob Cross will be looking to make a mark on his Champions League of Darts debut, and he can be packed at an intriguing 6/1 with Unibet. Don’t forget Peter Wright; with just one PDC major to his name, will be desperate to add a second on the south coast. A price of 8/1 with Betsson says he can.
Fans of ‘horses for courses’ will be leaping over fences to get a slice of the 12/1 offered by Royal Panda on defending champion Suljovic. Elsewhere, there’s not much love from the market for the three outsiders: Chisnall (33/1), Gurney (40/1) and Whitlock (66/1).
Imagine working so hard on your game that you managed to claw your way up the Order of Merit and secure yourself the number two seeding at a fairly significant TV event. And then imagine looking at the draw and knowing that even if you get through the group phase, you are likely to meet MVG or Gary Anderson in the semi-final. That’s the fate awaiting Peter Wright at the Champions League of Darts. This perhaps explains why he is so unfancied by the market at 8/1.
Clearly, logic dictates that backing Van Gerwen and the Flying Scotsman in some capacity is essential. Both are former finalists in this event, and of course they remain the two best tungsten-throwers on the planet. The fact that they would avoid each other in the semi-finals, assuming they make it through the group, is just a happy coincidence.
In Group B, you could certainly make a case to for Suljovic to come through the pile. The Gentle has excellent head-to-head records against both Wright and Cross. He beat Snakebite in six of their last seven meetings and Voltage in three of four encounters in 2018. It’s just the effect the awkward Austrian seems to have on people. Backing MVG at an odds-on price in an event he has never won is curious, and to do so he will almost certainly have to beat one of Wright / Cross / Suljovic as well as Anderson at least once.
From a value perspective, Anderson – winner of two majors this year and a former Champions League finalist – has to be the play at odds of 9/2.
Best Bets for the Champions League of Darts 2018: