World number one Michael van Gerwen will be looking to defend the crown he won last year, but in what has been described as the best World Matchplay lineup ever, it could be the Dutchman’s toughest test yet. So far in 2016 van Gerwen has raised the bar in darts to unbelievable heights. Van Gerwen has already won the first three majors in 2016 winning: The Masters, UK Open and the Premier League and set a new record TV averaging of 123.40 in Aberdeen when he beat Michael Smith 7-1.
Over the last month, the PDC top stars have been involved in the World Series, where World Champion Gary Anderson stole the show winning in Dubai, Auckland and Tokyo. Van Gerwen won the other in Shanghai, but tellingly it was Anderson who beat van Gerwen in the final in Tokyo last weekend. Anderson will head to Blackpool as one of the front-runners, but the World Champion is yet to show his best form at the Matchplay. Anderson’s best run at the Matchplay was in 2014 when he was beaten in a thrilling semi-final by Phil Taylor. Anderson has tricky looking first-round game against Alan Norris; Anderson will need to be at his best as Norris has taken to life in the PDC well. This game will be a high-scoring affair, as both players are renowned for their power scoring.
James Wade has a tough looking route to the final after the draw. In the first round, he will have to get past Merv King; the winner looks set to play the fives times champion of the world Raymond van Barneveld in the second round. Wade was runner-up here last year and has tasted glory on the Blackpool stage before, Wade won the World Matchplay in 2007 and was the first of his eight PDC majors.
Of the outsiders Jelle Klaasen at 50/1 is my pick. Dutchman had a great run in this year’s World Championships, only beaten by the winner Gary Anderson in the semi-finals. Klaasen has had a great start to 2016 breaking back into the world’s top 10 and is more than capable of springing a surprise here.
This looks the toughest Matchplay to call, with so many players just hitting some form at just the right time. It’s hard to look past van Gerwen but at 11/10 he is not short at that price for me. I think van Gerwen will be hard to beat, but I see much more value in Anderson at 6/1 and Jelle Klaasen at 50/1
By Phill Barrs