Phil Taylor will return to defend his Champions League of Darts title next month, whilst five-time world champion Raymond van Barneveld, four-time major finalist Dave Chisnall and world number seven Mensur Suljovic will make their debuts in the second staging of the event at the Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff on September 16-17th.
Last year’s ground-breaking tournament saw a PDC event broadcast live on the BBC for the very first time, with the world’s top eight split into two groups of four for the round-robin phase, before the top two from each group contest the semi-finals and final.
Taylor, fresh from winning his 16th World Matchplay title with victory over Peter Wright on Sunday, won the inaugural staging of last year’s tournament by beating Michael van Gerwen twice in as many days; thrashing ‘The Green Machine’ 11-5 in the final.
As defending champion, ‘The Power’ was guaranteed a wildcard for this year’s competition, but his Matchplay triumph has catapulted him up to 4th on the PDC Order of Merit, which would have sealed his qualification by right.
Taylor and Van Gerwen will clash once again in this year’s event, as they’ve both been paired in Group A. The world number one has lost five of his last seven games against the 56-year-old and he’ll be desperate to gain revenge for his humbling 16-6 defeat against Taylor in last week’s World Matchplay quarter-finals.
Adrian Lewis will seek to improve on last year’s showing in Cardiff, as he joins Van Gerwen and Taylor in Group A. ‘Jackpot’ won just one of his three group phase matches last year, but he made a successful return from back surgery at the Winter Gardens, reaching the semi-finals before losing out to his fellow Stoke-on-Trent star Taylor.
The final representative in Group A will be Champions League debutant Raymond van Barneveld. The legendary Dutchman featured prominently on the BBC’s darting coverage during his BDO days, but the five-time world champion will be relishing his first taste of Champions League action, having climbed up to eighth on the PDC Order of Merit.
Two-time world champion Gary Anderson will be the highest seed in Group B alongside his compatriot Peter Wright, who continued his fine form to become the first ever Scot to appear in a World Matchplay final.
The remaining two participants will both be making their debuts in the event. Four-time major finalist Dave Chisnall will be aiming to end his wait for an elusive TV title and he’ll be joined by world number seven Mensur Suljovic- who reached his first televised final at the European Championship last October.
Eight-time major winner James Wade misses out on this year’s event, having slipped to ninth in the world following his first-round exit at the Winter Gardens, whilst Michael Smith and Robert Thornton, who finished bottom of their respective groups last year, will also be absent in Cardiff.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
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Michael van Gerwen
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