The German Darts Masters takes place this weekend and our Chris Hammer attempts to pick the winner in his preview of the action.
German Darts Masters: Recommended bets
1pt Peter Wright at 10/1
0.5pts each-way Max Hopp at 50/1
0.5pts each-way Gabriel Clemens at 80/1
The second of this season's World Series events takes place in the darting hotbed of Germany over the next couple of days, live on ITV4, as a select group of stars get one last opportunity to pick up some extra confidence on the televised stage - as well as a chunky pay cheque - ahead of the World Matchplay.
Although there are two Players Championship events before the big Blackpool major gets under way next Saturday, you have to say this is more advantageous preparation, especially for those who also competed in the US Darts Masters last weekend - Michael van Gerwen, Gary Anderson, Rob Cross, Daryl Gurney and Peter Wright.
That said, given how poorly MVG played in his quarter-final defeat to Michael Smith in Las Vegas, averaging just 88, another disappointing performance may do his quest for a third World Matchplay more harm than good.
Anderson, Cross and Gurney also bowed out in the quarters last week having only won their opening round matches against the North American qualifiers, while Wright's bid to win a first individual PDC title of 2019 were ended by eventual champion Nathan Aspinall, who brilliantly went on to beat Smith in the final.
Anyone who flops in Cologne can at least console themselves with the fact this is a short format invitational event played over just two days, but nevertheless this is still a lucrative test they'll all be focused on.
Joining these five on the 'big name' side of the draw are defending champion Mensur Suljovic, who triumphed in front of a world record crowd when this event was staged in Gelsenkirchen last year, the resurgent James Wade and the soon to be retired Raymond van Barneveld.
Unlike in Las Vegas, this week's home representatives can clearly be considered more a threat to cause first round upsets, with Max Hopp, Martin Schindler and Gabriel Clemens among the eight that will receive huge crowd support at the Lanxess Arena.
German Darts Masters draw & tournament bracket
- (1) Peter Wright v Robert Marijanovic
- Gary Anderson v Nico Kurz
- (4) Daryl Gurney v Christian Bunse
- James Wade v Kevin Munch
- (2) Michael van Gerwen v Martin Schindler
- Mensur Suljovic v Maik Langendorf
- (3) Rob Cross v Max Hopp
- Raymond van Barneveld v Gabriel Clemens
To get things started, I'm going to take a small chance on a couple of them at 50/1 and 80/1 each-way.
Admittedly, Hopp has a very tough opening fixture against Rob Cross - who I wouldn't put off anyone backing at 7/1 - but in a race to six legs with the crowd so firmly behind the young Maximiser, a small upset is on the cards.
The former world champion has won three of their four previous meetings but Hopp did beat him 7-6 en route to winning his first senior PDC title at the German Darts Open last year. He made match winning 121 checkouts on the bullseye in the deciding leg before remarkably repeating the trick against Michael Smith in the final, so he can handle the home pressures and expectation under the lights.
Since then, he picked up another PDC title in August as well as reaching the European Championship semi-final on home soil, agonisingly losing out to eventual champion Wade after missing three match darts, while another two were spurned when losing to Simon Whitlock in this year's German Darts Grand Prix semis.
I'll write that Premier League nightmare against Barney in Berlin as a blip because on more recent form he did reach the Players Championship 16 final back in May, losing a deciding leg to another rising star in Harry Ward.
Should he get past Cross then his next opponent could well be fellow countryman Clemens, who could be an interesting little shout at 80/1.
Many observers feel Clemens is arguably the most dangerous German player around at the moment despite the fact Hopp and Schindler, who teamed up for the country in the World Cup of Darts, are still ranked higher.
The 'German Giant' has reached two Players Championship finals this season, losing them to Gerwyn Price and Jonny Clayton, and maybe this is the perfect opportunity to show the world his talents on a big televised stage now that his experience and confidence is starting to build.
He opens up against Raymond van Barneveld and nobody needs me to tell them about the legend's struggles at the moment, even with the desperate motivation he has to qualify for the season ending World Championship. Not that this event will help in that cause anyway, given its invitational status.
It is admittedly hard to see Clemens going all the way unless someone - most likely Mensur Suljovic, Cross or Hopp - can take out Michael van Gerwen before the semi-finals but we have seen surprise winners of events this year so hopefully you'll at least get a run for your money with a small stakes outlay.
Looking at the top half of the draw, I'm going to have the 2017 champion Peter Wright on side as he looks to pick up a first individual PDC title of the season and a first triumph on TV since last year's Melbourne Darts Masters.
Snakebite did endure a dreamful Premier League campaign which featured just two wins and five draws from 16 games and a six-game losing run to finish but it looks like he's building back up again ahead of Blackpool.
His run to the semi-finals Stateside was actually the fifth time he'd fallen at the last four in events this season - including at May's Dutch Darts Masters - and he did average 100 during his narrow defeat to Aspinall, having also done the same in a triumph over Gurney in the quarters.
The Scotsman, who beat MVG at the European Darts Open in Germany earlier this season only to lose a last leg decider to Ian White in the final, was thrilled to claim his first World Cup of Darts title alongside Gary Anderson last month and he could come up against the Flying Scotsman in the second round.
First up he'll need to overcome Robert Marijanovic but he shouldn't have too much fear for Anderson considering how rusty he looked during his defeat to Gerwyn Price last week as well as his overall lack of action this season.
I'm really struggling to decide who will come through a potential second round clash between Daryl Gurney and James Wade but Wright will fancy his chances whoever he faces.
World Series of Darts: 2019 Event Calendar
- US Darts Masters – July 4-5, Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, Las Vegas (Winner: Nathan Aspinall)
- German Darts Masters – July 12-13, LANXESS Arena, Cologne
- Brisbane Darts Masters – August 9-10, BCEC, Brisbane
- Melbourne Darts Masters – August 16-17, Melbourne Arena
- NZ Darts Masters – August 23-24, Claudelands Arena, Hamilton
- World Series of Darts Finals - November 1-3, AFAS Live, Amsterdam