It’s almost two months now since Phil Taylor lifted the World Matchplay title by beating James Wade at the Winter Gardens in the most recent televised darts event. It was far from being a vintage Taylor performance in Blackpool, but it is a testament to The Power’s persistent quality that he can still win major titles without playing at his very best.
Aside from a couple of promotional tournaments in Australia Taylor hasn’t been in action since claiming that 13th Matchplay title, however. The world number one opting not to participate in last weekend’s Players Championship events in Barnsley and the European Tour event previously. That would normally be a reason to oppose The Power, but with a couple of weaker opponents in the opening two rounds – Magnus Caris then Jerry Hendriks or Mensur Suljovic – there’s an opportunity for him to work towards his best form before meeting any threatening opponents. At odds of 2.00 Taylor is a solid bet to win the European Championships outright.
The Would-Be King:
In the opposite half of the draw to Taylor, Adrian Lewis leads the way as the number-two seed and the 9.00 second-favourite. The world champion threw a nine-dart leg in the semi-final of this event last year, before going on to lose to Taylor in the final, and flexed his muscles once again by winning the European Tour event in Stuttgart in his most recent outing earlier this month. Jackpot’s most notable result en route to that title being a 6-1 semi-final annihilation of James Wade.
He doesn’t, however, have the easiest of draws in Germany this weekend. In the first round he meets an in-form Ian White, who was runner-up in Saturday’s Players Championship event in Barnsley and was the runner-up when Lewis won in Stuttgart recently. If Lewis successfully negotiates that tricky opening round match then he is likely to face the impressive Kim Huybrechts before a potential quarter-final match with Michael van Gerwen or Raymond van Barneveld.
Best of the Rest:
Instead it might be worth looking to the in-form Simon Whitlock, who can be backed at odds of 13.00. The Australian won Sunday’s Players Championship event to end a two-year wait for a ranking title, and reached the quarter-final in each of his two previous tournaments. I’ve often questioned Whitlock’s mental fortitude to win a major title, but the lower-key nature of this event may just suit him and allow him to shake the monkey of his back.
He is the justifiably strong 1.36 favourite to win his opening round match against Mark Walsh, and then I’d fancy him to also see off an out-of-form Dave Chisnall in the second round. James Wade is a potential quarter-final opponent, but The Machine also appears to be a little out of touch and can be opposed. Make Whitlock your main bet of the weekend at odds of 13.00 for the title.
A couple of others worth considering at bigger odds include the aforementioned Ian White at 80.00 and the dramatically-improved Michael van Gerwen at 40.00.
It’s difficult to believe that White can actually go all the way and win a major title, but he is one of the form players on the circuit and represents a slither of value at 80.00. Van Gerwen, on the other hand, has the pedigree, is certainly in form having won one and reached the semi-final stage in the other Players Championship event at the weekend, and has improved progressively in major tournaments this season. The young Dutchman is the outside value bet this weekend.
Best Value Bets:
Back Simon Whitlock @ 13.00 Michael van Gerwen @ 40.00.