They are playing for a total prize pool of 161,000 euros with the winner walking off with 30,000 of them and anybody hitting a 9-dart leg driving off in an Opel Tigra. But these players are also focused on something beyond that – the chance of pitting their skills against their cross code rivals. It isn’t often that we see competition between the two codes but in recent times this tournament along with the World Darts Trophy have helped bring the two together and deliver what every darts fan around the world wants to see.

There has been much fuss and bluster about contracts being broken and player’s interests being ignored, but come Saturday, that will all be forgotten as they get down to the serious business of chucking pointed lumps of metal at a bit of circular wood.

Raymond van Barneveld will be looking to regain the title he won in 2006 by beating Colin Lloyd 13-5 in the final. Phil Taylor bombed out at the quarter final stage last year, losing to The Wizard Simon Whitlock. He also lost to Jelle Klaased and will be looking to improve this year Whitlock went on to narrowly lose to Barneveld in the semi final and will be hoping for a repeat showing this time around.

2006 also saw Michael van Gerwen come of age as he reached the quarter finals (also losing out to Barneveld) beating Martin Adams & Colin Lloyd in the early rounds. How far can he go this year having been given a wild card and having to come through the tough preliminary stage. There are some big names alongside MVG battling it out for a place in round one – the likes of Ronnie Baxter, Merv King, Chris Mason, Gary Robson & Richie Burnett will be hopeful of reaching the first round proper.

The first round draw has thrown up some cracking groups with the possibility of one or two ‘groups of death’ should the big names come through the preliminary round. King for instance would join Gary Anderson, Roland Scholten and Wayne Mardle in group one. Should van Gerwen qualify he will join Tony Eccles, Terry Jenkins and Andy Hamilton in perhaps the toughest group of the lot.

All in all it looks set up for a classic week of darts and a real taster for the Grand Slam of Darts later in the year. Game on!

DartsMad Predictions

Preliminary Round Qualifiers

Group One – Mervyn King
Group Two – Gary Robson
Group Three – Michael van Gerwen
Group Four – Vincent van der Voort
Group Five – Wayne Jones
Group Six – Andy Jenkins
Group Seven – Robbie Green
Group Eight – Ronnie Baxter

First Round Qualifiers

Group A – Wayne Mardle & Mervyn King
Group B – Peter Manley & Simon Whitlock
Group C – Terry Jenkins & Andy Hamilton
Group D – Raymond van Barneveld & Scott Waites
Group E – Martin Adams & Adrian Lewis
Group F – Colin Lloyd & Andy Jenkins
Group G – Dennis Priestley & James Wade
Group H – Phil Taylor & Ronnie Baxter

Winner – Phil Taylor
Runner up – Raymond van Barneveld