World Matchplay Day Two preview, schedule and predictions: Reigning champion Cross begins title defence
Day Two of the World Matchplay sees reigning champion Rob Cross kick off his defence of the title against dangerous German Gabriel Clemens.
Elsewhere, Sunday night will see World Champion Peter Wright start his quest for a maiden Matchplay title against Jose de Sousa, in what many are calling the game of the opening round.
2018 finalist Mensur Suljovic, three-time BDO World Champion Glen Durrant and last year’s runner-up Michael Smith are all in action in a star-studded Day Two lineup.
MENSUR SULJOVIC V JAMIE HUGHES
Mensur Suljovic came so close to winning this tournament in 2018, when he battled back from 17-14 down to take the game to extra time, before being edged out by Gary Anderson 21-19.
The last 12 months have been rough for the Austrian, but he seems to have found some form in time for the second biggest major on the calendar by making the semi-finals of one of the PDC Summer Series events last week.
Jamie Hughes is back for his second appearance at the Matchplay after losing out in the first round to Michael Smith 12 months ago.
Yozza won the last meeting between the pair back in March, where he prevailed 10-5 at the UK Open – the last major event before the four-month suspension.
Prediction: 10-7 Suljovic
GLEN DURRANT V JEFFREY DE ZWANN
Glen Durrant was the star of the show on his debut at the Winter Gardens 12 months ago, when he reached the semi-finals.
En route he beat Michael van Gerwen in a classic second round tie, before being edged out by Michael Smith in the last four.
‘Duzza’ was top of the Premier League before its enforced shutdown, and has risen to a career high PDC ranking of 15.
De Zwann is also well-known for the famous early knockout of van Gerwen, having done so in 2018 as he went on a run to the last four, before being beaten by eventual champion Gary Anderson.
He’s one of those players which, when unseeded, leaves the big names quaking in their boots.
Prediction: 11-9 Durrant
ROB CROSS V GABRIEL CLEMENS
The reigning champion Rob Cross will be looking to join an exclusive club of first-time champions to retain the title. Only Rod Harrington and Michael van Gerwen have proved to do so in the tournament’s 27-year history.
As if the record books aren’t on his side enough, he runs into Gabriel Clemens – the shining light of German darts at the moment.
The former BDO World Masters semi-finalist, Clemens has become one of the most consistent players on the ProTour, with the question looming similarly to Cross three years ago as to whether he can replicate it on the big stage.
Cross made the final in one of the PDC Summer Series events, where he was edged out by James Wade in the final.
Prediction: 10-5 Cross
PETER WRIGHT V JOSE DE SOUSA
The game of the night, and quite possibly the match of the first round as the World Champion Peter Wright faces the methodical and irrational Portuguese sensation that is Jose de Sousa.
Wright made the final of the Matchplay in 2017, where he lost in Phil Taylor’s last game in Blackpool.
‘Snakebite’ won the final Summer Series event and topped the Order of Merit over the five days of action in Milton Keynes.
Having also won the Masters in January at the same venue, the Marshall Arena feels a home from home for Wright.
De Sousa, though, has the better head-to-head record, winning two of the three meetings between the pair since July of last year.
Despite being ranked 51 on the PDC Order of Merit, the Portugese player came into the Matchplay healthily placed on the PDC ProTour Order of Merit following two Players Championship wins last season.
Prediction: 10-4 Wright
MICHAEL SMITH V JOHNNY CLAYTON
The Welsh ‘Ferret’ will want to forget all about the last meeting between these two, when Smith obliterated him 7-1 as a contender in the Premier League in Cardiff.
‘Bully Boy’ may be one of those to welcome the change in venue following defeat to Cross in last year’s final.
After going 9-0 down in a race to 18, he tried to make a game out of it, but the advantage that ‘Voltage’ held always seemed too much to chase down.
Having lost two stone in weight over lockdown, Smith is trying to change his habits on tour to try and get that illusive major win.
Clayton goes into this as an underdog, but is a player not to be underestimated. Sometimes put under the radar, he has secured the scalp of Michael van Gerwen this year in the Masters at the same venue.
Prediction: 10-6 Smith
(Featured Image: Chris Sargeant)