THE Unibet Masters dawns to our screens once again on ITV4 as the start of the new Darts campaign gets underway with the top 16 vowing to contest for the first tv title since the World Championships a little over three weeks ago.
The event in its sixth staging carries a £200,000 prize fund with £60,000 going to Sunday evenings winner.
Michael van Gerwen will be bowing to retain his title and occupies a 5/6 offering with some firms after an 11-7 win over Gary Anderson in 2017. New World Champion Rob Cross is second favourite at 4/1, with Gary Anderson at 8/1 and Wright at 9/1.
- (1) Michael van Gerwen v (16) Kim Huybrechts
- (8) Simon Whitlock v (9) James Wade
- (5) Daryl Gurney v (12) Gerwyn Price
- (4) Gary Anderson v (13) Benito van de Pas
- (2) Peter Wright v (15) Alan Norris
- (7) Dave Chisnall v (10) Raymond van Barneveld
- (6) Mensur Suljovic v (11) Michael Smith
- (3) Rob Cross v (14) Ian White
The last sixteen will be played over Friday and Saturday before Sunday’s double session.
Schedule of Play
Friday January 26 (7pm) – First Round x4
- Dave Chisnall v Raymond van Barneveld
- Mensur Suljovic v Michael Smith
- Rob Cross v Ian White
- Peter Wright v Alan Norris
Saturday January 27 (7pm) – First Round x4
- Simon Whitlock v James Wade
- Daryl Gurney v Gerwyn Price
- Gary Anderson v Benito van de Pas
- Michael van Gerwen v Kim Huybrechts
Looking at Fridays action first and a popular section back to this column is the FAV’s price of the night. Marathonbet punt a shade over 6/5 for Barney, Cross and Wright to prevail. With layers split on the Suljovic and Smith in the other selecting with as your pick if successful tops up your four-timer to 100/30 with the same firm.
Backing all the outsiders (Norris/White and Chisnall pays a smidgen under 78/1 with Paddy Power and taking on the positive handicaps is just over 5/1 with some.
Dave Chisnall potentially blew his Premier League spot with a string of well below par performances in the lead up to the World Championships and even his majestic ability of flying in the maximums begun deserting him mainly responsible to his back issues.
Barney on the other hand seems to have played like Barney does and has committed to playing more of the tour moving forwards.
Barney is understandably the favourite with some firms around the 1/2 mark with 4/7 the best industry price. You can agree that backers of Chisnall at 13/8 may feel unhinged if both players continue playing where they left off a few weeks ago.
Looking at the markets here for best of 19 has the maximum line set at 10.5, which I was hoping for 11.5 at the same price initially. This as in all games may have a either/or scenario not seeing either play since the World Championships is it better to stick with an over or under play in general?
Mensur Suljovic and Michael Smith could be an interesting clash with layers unable to split the pair at even money. Both players can use this game as match practice before they both toe the oche next Thursday at the Premier League.
The better bet of the night here has to turn towards the maximums. With Mensur’s type of throw, which has sped up in recent months does not often rack up too many. Sponsors unibet punt just 4/6 (60%) chance of hitting two or more maximums than the Austrian. Bullyboy is generally 4/9 to win the count. Why get the 4/6, which is no value when you can back the 10/11 at Skybet for the same result. A boost from 1.44 to 1.91 for one further maximum is a lot sweeter.
Rob Cross takes on Ian White where the pair faced off six times in 2017. Both have three victories apiece although Cross has got the better of White in the last two including a first round Matchplay victory last July.
The last time we saw Diamond White was well beaten by Gerwyn Price in the last 32. Rob Cross marked one of the best rookie seasons of any Darts player, if not ever by today’s Darting standards in an epic semi final to best Michael van Gerwen all the way. Cross then comfortably beat Taylor in a final that was semi-overshadowed by it being Phil’s final match.
This could be a relatively uncertain encounter although the pressures of being one of the elite now may/may not be a factor and is one where I have a treble punt on in our recommendations.
Peter Wright and Alan Norris will provide a quick fire game and both can hopefully put together some good form as Wright will be expected to sail through.
Norris has never beaten Snakebite with Nozza fairing below par in the last quarter of 2016. Having exited the World Championships at the second round and early exits in the Grand Slam and Player Championships Finals. Playing Peter Wright who by his own standards despite suffering gall stones before the World Championships ended the year not as planned.
Attempting to back anything with absolute confidence in this game is tough as odds compilers have targeted markets with a cautious approach.
Saturday’s action from a betting perspective does not actually provide much mileage for us in A – backing any of the short favourites or B – seeing target markets well covered by odds compilers.
Gary Anderson to hit 3 more maximums over Benito van de Pas must be worth a look at 6/5 with hosts Unibet. Benito exited 2017 on such a negative note that psychologically will take some time to recover. We hope Gary is up for this and can recover the handicap.
We also think James Wade, whose form has put questions in backers minds whether to avoid him or not? With Simon Whitlock’s decline in the last couple months of 2017 after a terrific run to the World Grand Prix Final in October is 21-15 in front on the head to head, although since 2015 have played just three times. Their last encounter in the World Series saw a last leg decider and both are relatively reliable on throw, I see some longevity in the game!