Nine days of drama begins this weekend as 32 of the worlds best compete for the prestigious title including the sports most famous player making his final appearance.
Phil Taylor is by far the most successful player in Matchplay history and this is one of his favourite events on the calender. In his final year on the tour will he be able to lift the title for one last time?
Standing in his way is the worlds best with Michael Van Gerwen the heavy favourite. The Dutchman has won the last two Matchplay titles including a comfortable victory in last years final 18-10 over Taylor.
Only the Power has won the event three times in a row and MVG will join him with victory this week. He comes in great form, having won in Las Vegas last week to carry on his fantastic record this year. He starts against Stephen Bunting, but it is hard on current form to see him being able to trouble Mighty Mike.
Taylor is in the same half of the draw as Van Gerwen so they will be no repeat of the final from last year. They are due to meet in the quarter-finals, but it will a tough ask for the Power to get there. First up he meets UK Open finalist Gerwyn Price, who is one of the most improved players on tour and then he could potentially meet old rival Raymond Van Barneveld in the second round. Barney has never won the Matchplay, reaching the final in 2010, but is a long shot this week. He lifted the World Cup alongside Van Gerwen, but it has far from been a stellar year for him.
In the same half of the draw their are opportunities for Adrian Lewis and Dave Chisnall to have deep runs, while eyes will also be on Rob Cross, a man who has started making waves on the tour in 2017.
In the other half of the draw are the two Scotsman, Gary Anderson and Peter Wright. They are set for a semi-final meeting, with the bookies virtually unable to separate the two.
Neither will have an easy ride to get to that stage though, but the one to watch out for this week is Daryl Gurney. The Northern Irishman has had a fantastic year on the floor and on TV events, including reaching the final in Vegas last week when he beat Anderson and Wright. He first up meets Benito Van de Pas, another promising prospect, before possibly facing Anderson in round two.
The Matchplay is always one of the most exciting events on the calender with the standard being so high and this week will prove to be the same. I expect shocks and drama, but ultimately if Van Gerwen plays at his best it is hard to see past him.
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