Grand Slam of Darts preview

Sports Mole previews the Grand Slam of Darts, which begins at the Wolverhampton Civic Hall on Saturday.

The seventh staging of the Grand Slam of Darts gets underway at the Wolverhampton Civic Hall on Saturday afternoon, with Raymond van Barneveld looking to defend the title that he won 12 months ago.

Van Barneveld came out on top in a battle of the Dutchmen by beating Michael van Gerwen, but he will return to the West Midlands with plenty of players looking to deny the five-time world champion back-to-back triumphs.

Below, Sports Mole takes a look at who could make an impact during the 32-man tournament, that includes players from both the PDC and BDO.

Main contenders

Sixteen-time world champion Phil Taylor goes into the event as the clear favourite to add a fifth Grand Slam crown to his ever-growing major title collection.

Since July, Taylor has won the World Matchplay, World Grand Prix, Championship League of Darts and The Masters, and the 53-year-old looks intent on taking the three remaining major titles of the year.

Phil Taylor of Britain reacts as he takes part in the PDC World Championship darts final against Michael van Gerwen of the Netherlands on January 1, 2013© Getty Images

Van Gerwen and world number three Adrian Lewis are the obvious challengers to Taylor, but both have been drawn in the same half as the world number one, and they are likely to meet the Englishman in the semi-finals.

Van Barneveld's success last year sees him enter this competition as the second seed, and that has kept him away from Taylor in the draw.

The world number 10 would still need to progress past the likes of Mervyn King, Simon Whitlock and Wes Newton to reach a second final, but 'Barney' will be confident of making a significant challenge at the Civic Hall.

Dark horses

The Grand Slam of Darts has occasionally seen surprise names make the latter stages of the event, such as Andy Hamilton making the final in 2006 and Mark Walsh and Dean Winstanley reaching the semi-finals in recent years.

That could encourage the likes of Newton and Dave Chisnall that they can impress in Wolverhampton, and after being drawn in the opposite side to Taylor, Van Gerwen and Lewis, they will be two of the main contenders to reach the final.

Newton hasn't enjoyed the best of years on television but he has previously reached major finals, while Chisnall made his breakthrough in the PDC with an appearance in the World Grand Prix final last month.

Belgium's Kim Huybrechts is another who enters the event in the best form of his career, but after being drawn alongside the "big three" in the top half of the draw, he will be up against it to get past the quarter-finals.

Wes Newton of England throws a dart during the quarter final match between Wes Newton of England and James Wade of England on day thirteen of the 2013 Ladbrokes.com World Darts Championship at Alexandra Palace on December 29, 2012© Getty Images

BDO players

The BDO will have just five representatives in Wolverhampton this year, including past winner Scott Waites, but the organisation's number one Stephen Bunting has not qualified for the event.

Realistically, Waites is the only BDO player in contention for success, but after failing to win a recognised tournament since February, the Yorkshire thrower could be happy with a place in the last eight.

Three-time Lakeside runner-up Tony O'Shea has also performed well in previous Grand Slam appearances, but he could struggle in a group including Van Barneveld and King.

The underrated Wesley Harms faces a tough ask against James Wade, Gary Anderson and Peter Wright, while former BDO world champion Christian Kist and England's Richie George will do well to progress past the second round.

Prediction

The format of the Grand Slam of Darts throws up many possibilities, but unless someone can surprise Taylor in the early stages of the tournament, he seems almost a certainty to capture his fifth title in Wolverhampton.

Van Barneveld and Whitlock will be fancied to make a charge to the final, but Newton is due another appearance in a televised final and he could achieve that before succumbing to Taylor.

Phil Taylor of Britain reacts as he takes part in the PDC World Championship darts final against Michael van Gerwen of the Netherlands on January 1, 2013
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