14 Jul, 2020

A team of six Target players line-up at the BetFred World Matchplay this year, with defending champion Rob Cross looking to retain the Phil Taylor Trophy in the first staging of the event away from Blackpool Winter Gardens.

Restrictions around Covid-19 mean the biggest ranking event outside of the World Championship will instead be held at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes, and with no fans on site and limited competitive opportunities in the lead-up to the tournament, it could be a particularly unpredictable tournament this year.

Despite the strange circumstances however, the World Matchplay remains one of the biggest prizes in the sport, and a chance to join an elite list of just nine former champions in its 26 year history.

Rob Cross

World ranking: 4

Previous best: Champion (2019)

Title odds: 20-1 (joint 6th fav)

Opening game: v Gabriel Clemens

The reigning Matchplay and European Champion managed to win both of those titles in 2019 despite not playing his brilliant best; that is a mark of how special a player "Voltage" is. His semi-final victory against Daryl Gurney was one of the most remarkable comebacks ever seen at the tournament, but he may have to improve upon his displays 12 months ago if he is to join Phil Taylor, Michael van Gerwen and Rod Harrington as the only players to successfully retain the title.

The signs are good from Rob though, with six 100+ averages, a run to a final and a perfect nine dart leg during the five-day PDC Summer Series in the same Milton Keynes venue this month.

Nathan Aspinall

World ranking: 6

Previous best: last 32 (2019)

Title odds: 10-1 (4th fav)

Opening game: v Dimitri van den Bergh

The sponsors make "The Asp" the best hope for a Team Target victory at the World Matchplay this year, as he continues the stunning form that has established him as one of the world's elite.

Nathan has added the PDC Home Tour crown and two Pro Tour titles to his collection this year, and produced some stunning displays along the way - including a victory against World Champion Peter Wright which featured a 117 average and a nine darter.

Many fancied him to produce a run on his Matchplay debut last year, but he suffered a first-round exit to Mervyn King despite the highest average of the round. Nathan will be focused on putting things right this time.

Adrian Lewis

World ranking: 14

Previous best: Final (2013)

Title odds: 100-1

Opening game: v Steve Beaton

Nobody in the tournament's 26-year history has ever averaged as high in a final as Adrian did in 2013 and lost, but that was against Target's legendary Phil "The Power" Taylor, after whom the trophy is now named. (Averages: Taylor 111.23/Lewis 105.92)

"Jackpot" remains one of the most talented players in the game, but still has work to do to return to the very elite ranks in which he resided for almost a decade.

The signs are mixed: he began 2020 with a semi-final run on the Pro Tour, but he has not followed that up as he would like.

However, if he can overcome the evergreen Steve Beaton and then potentially find a way past world number three Gerwyn Price, there are very few players on the planet who have as much experience in big events as the two-time World Champion.

Glen Durrant

World ranking: 15

Previous best: Semi-final (2019)

Title odds: 25-1

Opening game: v Jeffrey de Zwaan

"Duzza" shocked the title favourite Michael van Gerwen in his superb debut campaign last year, as he made it all the way to the semi-finals.

Coupled with two further major semis and a run to the quarter-finals of the World Championship, the three-time Lakeside winner now comes to the Matchplay as a seeded player for the first time.

Preparation is never an issue for the Middlesbrough man; his lockdown period was spent putting in the hours on the practice board, and he will be ready for another assault on the Matchplay.

Jeffrey de Zwaan was a semi-finalist on debut himself in 2018 but may not be at his best having only just returned from shoulder surgery.

A first-round victory could set-up a clash with World Champion Peter Wright, a persistent thorn in Durrant's side - but it was in the second round last year when he took care of MvG… and Glen will be looking to add another career highlight to his ever-increasing list.

Ricky Evans

World ranking: 27

Previous best: last 32 (2019)

Title odds: 300-1

Opening game: Daryl Gurney

The fastest player on the planet was beaten in round one on his debut last year by the eventual semi-finalist Daryl Gurney, and the draw has pitted him against the Northern Irishman once again.

"Rapid" produced his first deep run at a major event at the European Championship in October when he reached the quarter-finals, but his Pro Tour form in 2020 has been steady rather than spectacular.

The brilliance has been there for years; it had been consistency that let him down, but qualifying for consecutive Matchplays is an indication that Evans has become a more reliable performer over the last two years.

Ricky has a good record against Gurney, and has beaten him on a televised stage before, but he will need to be at his very best to come through a star-studded quarter of the draw.

Gabriel Clemens

World ranking: 40

Previous best: Debut

Title odds: 66-1

Opening game: Rob Cross

The "German Giant" may be the lowest ranked player in action at the World Matchplay for Team Target, but the bookmakers have recognised how dangerous he is.

The German number two has made four PDC finals, although he is yet to get over the line and become a title winner.

A big 180-hitter, who appears to have taken very well to using the new darts we have made for him at Target, Clemens undoubtedly has the ability to make a big impression in his debut at the event.

It is an all-Target clash between Gabriel and defending champion Rob Cross in the first round, but it should hold no fear for the former locksmith, as his current record versus Cross reads: played two, won two.

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