BETTER late than never they say. Lockuptipster is back with his best picks as the darts return in the shape of the Champions League of Darts. Sorry for posting them late, hopefully still time to get in on the action.
The Champions League of Darts makes its debut to our screens but also as a first for the BBC in association with the PDC. Live coverage of the Professional Darts Corporation's inaugural Champions League of Darts begins on Saturday, 24 September across BBC One, BBC Two and the BBC Sport website.
The two-day tournament features the top eight players from the PDC Order of Merit including 2016 world champion Gary Anderson, Phil Taylor and world number one Michael Van Gerwen.
The BBC will show all the action live from the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff, with commentary coming from Vassos Alexander and Dan Dawson. Paul Nicholson, Mark Webster and Alan Warriner-Little are among the experts providing analysis.
The players split into two groups of four players kicking off with a round-robin phase. The top two players from each group will then progress to knockout semi-finals and the final, with a £100,000 first prize on offer for the champion.
Group A will contain world number one Michael van Gerwen, Phil Taylor, Peter Wright and Robert Thornton. Group B will consist of reigning World Champion Gary Anderson, Michael Smith, Adrian Lewis and James Wade.
The opening games have been determined for the opening session, where the winners of those games will face one another on the second session on Saturday. The third game will be decided Sunday, with the Semi Final and Final concluding the final session on Sunday evening.
Group A fixtures
Michael van Gerwen Vs Robert Thornton (1/10 – 38/5)
(Head to head – MVG leads 15-5)
We have two players that have polar opposite in terms of form, and with MVG basically defending a 41 game winning streak and plays his opponent that beat him in the World Grand Prix final a year ago Robert Thornton. Thornton in 2016 has had a year to forget. Having lost back in January to Dave Chisnall in the Masters in a game where Thornton was in a near un-losable situation is where the downfall begun. A week later was whitewashed by Chisnall in the Premier League and prolonged his Premier League in April by edging Chisnall out for some sweet revenge. Looking back further, bar the World Grand Prix, Thornton’s form has been patchy for nearly 18 months and must look at reversing his form.
MVG is a prime example of a winner and rarely looked vulnerable in the recent pro-tour triple header winning the 128 man event between Tuesday and Thursday this week pocketing two nine-darters in the process.
I feel MVG is well covered by the layers to beat Thornton, and for MVG to win 10-4 or better is still odds on, which I feel is the extent to what bookies see as damage limitation. Thornton could turn up for the match, whereas MVG may take his foot off the gas if the game goes the way bookies see it. Therefore backing the handicap is a little dangerous on the flip of the coin, but one bet I will take tentatively is for the maximums not to reach double figures and is 17/20 with Sportingbet just for a small stake as most markets are well covered.
Phil Taylor Vs Peter Wright (4/9 – 9/4)
(Head to head – Taylor leads 17-6)
This will be a nailbiter, but the danger with this is the preparations of both players. Snakebite did not perform as well as he hoped during the pro tour in midweek and Phil Taylor picks and chooses the events he plays in.
Taylor was looking good in the world series from May-August, but his last game was beaten by hotshot Corey Cadbury, an apparent new big thing in Australia. You read it here, remember the name Cadbury. Wright made some impact on the European Tour triple header with a final appearance last weekend losing out to MVG and made a quarter final the week before. I know in the events I saw over the last few months Taylor had been netting increasing maximums and hope the action plan is for this to continue. The danger with Taylor is his cover shooting, but a 17/20 shot on 5 or more with Sportingbet is worth a go, as I expect the game to cover some distance.
Group B fixtures
Gary Anderson Vs Michael Smith (3/10 – 3/1)
(Head to head – Anderson leads 4-2)
We have the defending champion Anderson take on the protégé Michael Smith, who will hope the latter part of 2016 will save his year. Smith has been on so-so form since making a final at a European Tour back in June and only made the second round of the World Matchplay back in July, seen as the last major.
Anderson having won three of the first four World Series events covered in May and June has been more selective in the events he has played in. His pro tour money for the year is adequate having won the penultimate event in August before the tour of Australia.
Anderson will relish the first game and will look to give his former pupil a lesson, so will be confident of Anderson covering the 3.5 handicap at evens as Smith has played some raw darts in the last 9 months or so, and Anderson has pure class and can be backed with BetVictor and Bet365 at evens.
Adrian Lewis Vs James Wade (4/5 – 5/4)
(Wade leads 26-19)
The old guard play for the 46th time in their lengthy career and although Wade owns the head to head is slight underdog for the match.
Lewis admitted going into the weeks pro tour he had not practised that much, especially after the 6-0 defeat to MVG along the way. Wade’s path did not go any easier losing to lessor opponents in his disappointing pro tour midweek treble.
I find it difficult to back either player although Lewis is the more natural chucker of the pair, although the left hander Wade is such an effective finisher that the pricing is what it is. Lewis is known to our waters as a BIG checkout finisher also thus the line set at 128.50, which is about right for the format. All in all looking at both players I would have to edge Lewis, as I am not more sure than not that Wade can beat Lewis having not been beaten since a UK qualifier in February 2015 and no TV loss since Wade won the masters in November 2014.
MVG to win outright – 9/10 Bwin 5pts
NO 170 finish – 15/8 BetVictor 2.5pts
Under 9.5 maximums – MVG/Thornton 17/20 Sportingbet 1pt
Taylor – Over 4.5 180s Vs Wright – 17/20 Sportingbet 1pt
Anderson -3.5 legs Vs Smith – 1/1 BetVictor 1.5pts
Lewis to beat Wade – 4/5 Sportingbet 1.5pts