The second European Tour event of the 2019 PDC season takes place this weekend and our darts expert Chris Hammer previews the action.
Recommended Bets: German Darts Championship
1pt Rob Cross to win the German Darts Championship at 6/1
0.5pts James Wade at 18/1
0.5pts e.w. Jamie Hughes at 50/1 (1/3 1,2)
Following the emotionally draining Premier League double-header in Rotterdam this week, which ended with Raymond van Barneveld retiring on the spot only to change his mind after a reflective night's sleep, our attention turns back to the European Tour.
Unlike this season's opening event in Leverkusen last weekend, Barney failed to qualify for this one but the other eight Premier League stars are obviously all seeded and will take to the stage at Halle 39 in Hildesheim in Saturday's second round.
Michael van Gerwen is odds-on favourite to defend the title he won by defeating James Wilson and also make it two tournament wins in a row following his success against my 8/1 tip Rob Cross in last Sunday's final.
Voltage played just as well as I'd forecast across the weekend - averaging 100+ in every match - so it was frustrating to see him edged out 8-6 by the world number one, who earlier survived a match dart against Gerwyn Price before getting himself out of trouble in a semi-final with Mensur Suljovic thanks to his third nine-dart finish of the season!
Van Gerwen, who had been going through a bad patch by his high standards prior to last weekend, followed this up with back-to-back 7-1 victories against Peter Wright and Raymond van Barneveld in Rotterdam but you have to say his life was made incredibly easy by two terrible performances from both opponents.
The world champion will be pretty happy with being in the bottom half of the draw, considering his toughest potential opponent before the semi-finals would be Gerwyn Price, who he's beaten in all of their 15 encounters.
Bottom half of the draw
- James Wade (4) v Boris Koltsov
- Darren Webster (13) v Luke Humphries
- Mensur Suljovic (5) v Ricky Evans
- Dave Chisnall (12) v Mervyn King
- Gerwyn Price (8) v Mark Dudbridge
- Jonny Clayton (9) v Simon Stevenson
- Michael van Gerwen (1) v Keegan Brown
- James Wilson (16) v Mario Robbe
But he could instead face ninth seed Jonny Clayton in the quarters should he get past Keegan Brown on Saturday and either James Wilson or Mario Robbe on Sunday afternoon - and the Ferret has defeated him in two of their last five meetings, including the most recent back in February.
The 'likeliest' semi-final opponent from the other quarter of the bottom half is either James Wade or Mensur Suljovic and I think it's about time to take a chance on the Machine winning his first title of the season.
The 2018 European and World Series champion looked extremely sharp in Rotterdam this past week and averaged over 100 in both of his games - first drawing 6-6 against a highly impressive Dimitri van den Bergh and then beating Michael Smith.
His scoring and 180 hitting was sensational in his clash with the young Belgian and was let down slightly by his finishing while 24 hours later it was his seven doubles converted from 11 attempts that brought his average up.
Admittedly he doesn't have a great record against the Suljovic, who may await in the quarter-finals, with 10 defeats out of 15, including two recent meetings in the Premier League and last weekend's European Darts Open, but there's no reason why Ricky Evans or Dave Chisnall couldn't take care of him.
In the top half of the draw, I've got to side with Rob Cross again because he's knocking down the door for a first title of the season and it's surely a matter of time before it breaks off the hinges.
As previously mentioned, Voltage was red hot last weekend and only just fell short while his form looked to be continuing into his Premier League clash with Mensur Suljovic when he led 5-1.
Suddenly, for no apparent reason, the wheels suddenly fell off and he capitulated to a 7-5 defeat that cost him his leadership of the table - but he showed tremendous character 24 hours later to bounce back as he defied Jeffrey de Zwaan's inspired display and a 10,000-strong Rotterdam crowd.
Overall this season Cross has reached two finals, including the UK Open, and a semi-final so he's showing a lot more consistency than he did in 2018 under the pressure of being the world champion.
He's not got an easy quarter, it must be said, with Ron Meulenkamp up first before a potential clash with in-form Daryl Gurney in Sunday afternoon's third round.
After that, it's extremely hard to say who'll be waiting for him out of Ian White, Stephen Bunting, van den Bergh or PDC newcomer Jamie Hughes, who is also worth a small each-way bet at 50/1.
The Tipton man, who breezed through Q School on day one back in January, has made an encouraging start to his debut season and was particularly impressive at the UK Open where his fine run was ended by an inspired comeback by Gerwyn Price in the last 32.
Hughes is a dangerous heavy scorer and that was evident again during Friday night's first round when he averaged 99 in a 6-4 victory over Tytus Kanik in which he also made two 100+ checkouts and hit almost 50% of his doubles.
He'll be underdog against second seeded White but it's a test he can overcome and should he do it, then he'll have a fighting chance against either Bunting or van den Bergh, who will have plenty of backers at 40/1.
If, like me, you want to take van Gerwen on then there is plenty more value about, with UK Open champion Nathan Aspinall also around the 40/1 mark despite being in a soft-ish top quarter headed by the inconsistent Peter Wright.
The Asp averaged 104 in his 6-1 first-round win over Mike Holz and converted six of his seven darts at doubles although he wasn't under too much pressure to hit any of them.
Top half of the draw
- Peter Wright (3) v Andrew Gilding
- Jermaine Wattimena (14) v Steffen Siepmann
- Adrian Lewis (6) v Kevin Knopf
- Joe Cullen (11) v Nathan Aspinall
- Rob Cross (7) v Ron Meulenkamp
- Daryl Gurney (10) v Andy Boulton
- Ian White (2) v Jamie Hughes
- Stephen Bunting (15) v Dimitri Van den Bergh