DARTS EXPERT Ben Levene (@benlevene96) looks ahead to the 2018 Champions League of Darts which begins this weekend.
Champions League of Darts 2018 | 22nd September – 23rd September 2018 | BBC
The unique Champions League of Darts returns this weekend. Last year saw Mensur Suljovic triumph against the odds to clinch a maiden TV title.
The Gentle is more fancied this time around, available at just 14/1 having gone off 50/1 just 12 months ago. He’s fifth in the betting behind the World’s top four – Michael Van Gerwen, Gary Anderson, Rob Cross and Peter Wright. Daryl Gurney, Dave Chisnall and Simon Whitlock make up the field.
The eight stars are split into two groups and play their group opponents once in a best of 19 legs with the top two from each group progressing to best of 21 semi-finals and final.
Anderson playing as well as ever
Gary Anderson won the World Matchplay in July to become only the third player to have won the World Championship, Premier League and the Matchplay. He won the UK Open earlier in 2018 too and had it not been for a back injury, could have claimed victory in the Worlds and Premier League this year.
Earlier this week Wayne Mardle described Gary Anderson as the third best player he’s ever seen and it’s difficult to argue with that.
The Flying Scotsman thrives over the longer the format and with the quick succession of games over the weekend, once he finds his rhythm he could prove unstoppable.
Anderson lost to Suljovic in the final in Brighton 12-months-ago and in the inaugural tournament a year prior he was eliminated in the semi-final against an MVG averaging 106 after topping his group.
Anderson has the beating of Cross and Wright winning seven of eight and seven of nine meetings respectively. He’s also won three consecutive meetings with Suljovic.
Van Gerwen is the only player in the field who can eclipse an on-song Anderson over such a lengthy format, but they are paired in the same group meaning should they progress, they cannot meet until the final.
That’s why I’m keen on the 6/4 about the two-time World Champ appearing in the final. His no.4 ranking means he’s underrated. The 47-year-old has made a conscious decision to pick and choose his tournaments and as a result his position in the Order of Merit has suffered. He’s playing as well as ever – this is my best bet.
I’d also chance the 3/1 (Coral) about the Scotsman topping his group. Van Gerwen takes up the bulk of the market but was eliminated in the group phase last year. The world number one was 3/4 to top the 16 game Premier League group phase, so should not be 1/3 over a shorter format where there is less scope for his consistency to show.
Mensur is always a menace
The 10/3 about Suljovic winning Group B is backable. He clearly thrives in the leg format, winning this competition last year and reaching the final of the Matchplay. He also won a World Series event earlier in 2018.
Mensur has won four consecutive meetings with Peter Wright and two on the bounce versus Rob Cross. Simon Whitlock makes up the group and Suljovic has won seven of ten versus him. He’ll fancy himself against each of those.
Out of sorts Snakebite
Peter Wright has been a shadow of his 2017 self so far this year. He lost to Ryan Searle in the second round of the International Darts Open on Saturday.
On the Pro Tour in 2018, both Cross and Suljovic have averaged more than Snakebite and a case can be made for the 5/4 about him not progressing from his group.
Cross has won six of eight meetings versus Wright so Voltage and Suljovic have the beating of him across multiple measures.
Wright has been eliminated in the group in both years of the Champions League and I’m happy to oppose him here.
Champions League of Darts 2018 – Gary Anderson to reach the final (6/4 Betfair)
Champions League of Darts 2018 – Gary Anderson to win Group A (3/1 Coral)
Champions League of Darts 2018 – Mensur Suljovic to win Group B (10/3 Bet Victor)
Champions League of Darts 2018 – Peter Wright not to qualify from Group B (5/4 Betfair)