THE inaugural Unibet Champions League of Darts begins on Saturday, as the world's top eight players do battle across the weekend at the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff in the PDC's first tournament televised by the BBC.

The ground-breaking free-to-air event will see coverage live on BBC One and BBC Two across the weekend, with the eight stars split into two groups of four for the round-robin phase before the top two from each group contest the semi-finals and final.

World number one Michael van Gerwen is the odds-on 8/11 pre-tournament favourite with sponsors Unibet, reflecting the red-hot form of the 27-year-old as he travels to Cardiff.

Van Gerwen has won six successive tournaments and 35 matches since his last defeat - to Phil Taylor in the Sydney Darts Masters final last month - and landed two nine-dart finishes this week as he won all three Players Championship events in Barnsley.

"My form is fantastic and I don’t think I could have prepared any better for the Champions League," said van Gerwen. "I'm very proud of myself because I think I did something special to win three events in three days.

"I feel like I can win every game I play and that is a fantastic feeling to have. I know it is not possible to keep winning forever but I want to keep this run going.

"I have won all the tournaments in the PDC so I want to be the first to get my hands on this one.

"I'm sure it will be a big audience for TV and I want to show all the viewers why I am world number one, and I will try my very best to play like I have been playing and win the trophy."


Van Gerwen opens his Group A challenge on Saturday afternoon against Scotland's Robert Thornton, the former World Masters and UK Open champion who claimed a famous victory when the pair met in last year's World Grand Prix final in Dublin.

"It's an honour to be part of this event and to be classed as one of the world's top eight," he said.

"My form lately hasn’t been quite there but I can give anybody a game on my day and I'm quietly confident it can all click together for me again. I'm looking forward to it and it is brilliant to be on the BBC so everybody can watch."

Phil Taylor and Peter Wright will also meet in their Group A opener, with the 16-time World Champion aiming to return in top form following a three-week break since the Perth Darts Masters.

"I'm excited and very much looking forward to this," said Taylor. "I've had a good break and been practising really hard.

"I'll be trying my best and it's a tough group, but it's going to be difficult for the other players as well. It's a massive event and a new audience for us on the BBC and I'd love to win it."


Group B will be headed by World Champion Gary Anderson, who faces former World Youth Champion Michael Smith in his opener before two-time World Champion Adrian Lewis takes on multiple major winner James Wade.

"It's an exciting new event and I can't wait to get going," said Anderson, who has also enjoyed a three-week break ahead of the Champions League.

"Being the top eight in the world there are no easy matches and it's a top-class field, and it would be a big feather in my cap to win the title on Sunday night - but there's a long way to go before then.

"Michael's a brilliant young player but you've got Adrian Lewis and James Wade in our group too and they are top class, so it's going to be tough."


Saturday's evening session will see the second group matches played as the afternoon session's winners face each other and the losers also meet, before the remaining group fixtures on Sunday afternoon.

The top two players from each group will then progress through to Sunday evening's semi-finals and final, with a £100,000 first prize on offer out of a £250,000 prize fund.

Tickets for the Unibet Champions League of Darts are still available from the Motorpoint Arena Box Office in person, by calling 02920 22 44 88 or online at www.ticketmaster.co.uk.

Unibet Champions League of Darts
Saturday September 24
Afternoon Session

First Group Matches
Gary Anderson v Michael Smith (B)
Adrian Lewis v James Wade (B)
Phil Taylor v Peter Wright (A)
Michael van Gerwen v Robert Thornton (A)
Live on BBC1 from 1.15pm (BBC2 from 4.30pm)

Evening Session
Second Group Matches
Afternoon session's Winners play each other, and Losers play each other.
Live on BBC2 from 6.30pm

Sunday September 25
Afternoon Session

Final Group Matches
Live on BBC2 from 1pm

Evening Session
Semi-Finals
Final
Live on BBC2 from 6.30pm

Format
Group Matches - Best of 19 legs
Semi-Finals & Final - Best of 21 legs

Unibet Odds
Tournament Winner

8/11 Michael van Gerwen
5/1 Gary Anderson
11/2 Phil Taylor
16/1 Adrian Lewis, Peter Wright
18/1 James Wade
28/1 Michael Smith
66/1 Robert Thornton

Match Odds - Saturday Afternoon
7/25 Gary Anderson v 11/4 Michael Smith
8/11 Adrian Lewis v 11/10 James Wade
2/5 Phil Taylor v 2/1 Peter Wright
1/17 Michael van Gerwen v 9/1 Robert Thornton

Group A Winner
5/9 Michael van Gerwen
5/2 Phil Taylor
7/1 Peter Wright
25/1 Robert Thornton

Group B Winner
11/10 Gary Anderson
5/2 Adrian Lewis
9/2 James Wade
6/1 Michael Smith

Odds courtesy www.unibet.co.uk and correct at time of writing. Subject to fluctuation.