Champions League of Darts 2018 Day One preview and order of play: Big names do battle in Brighton

Jamie Shaw in PDC Darts News 21 Sep 2018
Anderson and Gurney go head-to-head (credit:Lawrence Lustig/PDC)

The 2018 Champions League of Darts gets off to an explosive start in Brighton on Saturday with the opening group fixtures taking place.

The elite two-day invitational features eight of the PDC's biggest names battling it out for the £100,000 top prize at The Brighton Centre.

The eight players are split into two groups, facing each other once, before the top two from each progress to Sunday's Semi-Finals.

Group B kicks off with a fascinating show-down between defending Paddy Power Champions League of Darts champion Mensur Suljovic and reigning World Champion Rob Cross.

Suljovic claimed his first televised title when the tournament was staged in Cardiff 12 months ago and has since gone on to enjoy World Series and European Tour success, while also making his debut in the Premier League.

The Austrian has handpicked his tournament appearances of late, featuring in just two ranking events since July's World Matchplay - where he was beaten by Gary Anderson in the final.

Cross makes the short trip along the south coast from his home in Hastings to make his Champions League debut after a whirlwind year in his career.

The world number three claimed the Brisbane Masters title in August - his first televised triumph since the World Championship - having reached a further two World Series finals a month earlier.

Cross has won five of his eight previous meetings with Suljovic, though 'The Gentle' has come out on top in three of their last four encounters.

The other clash in Group B in the afternoon session sees world number two Peter Wright up against World Grand Prix finalist Simon Whitlock.

Wright ended a run of six consecutive final defeats by picking up a ProTour title in June before going on to win the Melbourne Masters and a further Players Championship crown.

The colorful Scot has bowed out in the group stage in each of his previous appearances in this competition but has dominated the recent head-to-heads against Whitlock, prevailing in their last five meetings.

Whitlock is making his Champions League debut and starts out as the 50/1 outsider of the field with tournament sponsors Paddy Power.

The Australian warmed up in style by reaching the final of last weekend's International Open in Riesa, following on from a solid showing in the World Series on home soil Down Under.

Group A kicks off with a tasty tussle between World Matchplay champion Gary Anderson and World Grand Prix winner Daryl Gurney.

Anderson dethroned Phil Taylor in last year's Semi-Finals before going down 11-9 to Suljovic in the final and will be keen to go one step further and add a fourth televised title to his armoury in 2018.

The Flying Scotsman has a strong record in round-robin formats, winning the Premier League on two occasions and having progressed out of the group in all 11 of his Grand Slam campaigns.

Gurney is one of three debutants in this year's Paddy Power Champions League and will be eyeing a strong start in what has been branded 'The Group of Death'.

The world number five is yet to claim a PDC title since his landmark Grand Prix success last October and has not reached a televised Semi-Final since last November.

Michael van Gerwen begins his quest to claim Champions League glory for the first time when he takes on Dave Chisnall.

This remains the only 'major' PDC trophy that the Dutchman is yet to get his hands on, having lost in the 2016 final and suffered a shock group stage exit last time out.

Van Gerwen has picked up no fewer than 17 titles this season, including the Premier League, World Cup and Auckland Masters, though his last outing resulted in a shock 6-1 rout at the hands of William O'Connor in the Dutch Championship.

The green machine boasts an emphatic record against 'Chizzy', having won 19 and drawn one of their last 20 competitive meetings dating back to February 2016.
Chisnall finished bottom of his group on debut last year, losing all three of his fixtures, and will be determined to put up a sterner challenge this time around.

He recently set a new record average on the European Tour but has not progressed beyond the Quarter-Final stage of a ranking tournament since April.

The action gets underway from 1.15pm BST, with all matches to be contested over the best of 19 legs.

Paddy Power Champions League 2018 Schedule

Saturday September 22

Afternoon Session (1.15pm-5pm)

Rob Cross v Mensur Suljovic (B)
Peter Wright v Simon Whitlock (B)
Gary Anderson v Daryl Gurney (A)
Michael van Gerwen v Dave Chisnall (A)

Evening Session (6.30pm-10pm)

4x Group Matches
Saturday afternoon's winning players face each other, and the losing players face each other in each group

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Champions League of Darts 2018 Day One preview and order of play: Big names do battle in Brighton

The 2018 Champions League of Darts gets off to an explosive start in Brighton on Saturday with the opening group fixtures taking place.

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