Premier League Darts Preview: It’s Crunch Time!
May 16, 2019
We’re reaching the end of the Premier League Darts season and it truly is all to play for. Just about every position in the table could change and prospective silverware awaits those who make the playoffs.
The fixtures feature some exciting matchups, with every potential win having the power to alter the rankings table. There are a fair few talking points to get through, so let’s take a look at them now ahead of this Thursday’s action from the oche.
Gerwn Price vs Peter Wright
Price currently resides in sixth place with only the faintest glimmer of hope for securing a place in the playoffs. He needs to get something from this match, though a win or draw will only be enough if Daryl Gurney and Mensur Suljovic both lose their matches.
Price is known for his ‘competitive personality’ (the polite way of putting it) which sometimes seems to have an effect on how he mentally approaches his games. In his loss against James Wade earlier in the season, he refused to shake the hand of his opponent and looked well short of his best form. He can’t afford to lose his head in this one but, with the amount of pressure at stake, he just might.
The good news for the Iceman is that his opponent is out of form with nothing to play for. It’s fair to say that Peter ‘Snakebite’ Wright has had a disappointing season. Unfortunately, there’s been more to say about the man’s hair than his darts, as the Mohawk-sporting Scot languishes in eighth. There is a chance for him to save a bit of face though with seventh-placed Michael Smith just one point ahead.
His Premier League form has been really poor, losing his last five games and is without a win in ten. However, his tournament form has been decent. Just last week he made it to the European Darts Grand Prix, narrowly missing out on the title courtesy of a 8-7 loss to Ian White. If he is to drag himself from the very bottom, albeit for pride’s sake, he’ll have to transfer some of this knockout from.
Price absolutely needs the win and he couldn’t have asked for a better matchup than this. There have been brief instances where we’ve seen the full scope of his abilities this year, but they have been too few and far between to put him in a securer position than he is in now. However, Snakebite isn’t an easy opponent by any means, and his recent success at the Grand Prix might just spur him on. I still think Price will win it in the end, but it might be a case of who is stronger mentally rather than the play.
Michael van Gerwen vs Mensur Suljovic
Just want to put it out there; I love Michael van Gerwen. The man is an absolute machine and, even with his second-place ranking, I rate him as the best in the world. A top place finish is out of his hands though, as he will have to rely on Cross dropping points if is he is to end the season at the summit.
Regardless of where he places though, he has treated us to some truly exceptional darts. Last week, van Gerwen hit the highest average of the season with a ludicrous 110.85, smashing Peter Wright 8-1 in the process. However, he then lost to Wright in the quarterfinals of the Grand Prix, which shows he’s not entirely unbeatable.
Mensur Suljovic is no slouch either though. In fact, he is a very tidy player at times. Recently though, there has been some cause for concern. He lost his last Premier League match 8-4 to Rob Cross, which isn’t an indignity by any means, especially when you consider Cross’ 103 average. However, he also lost his Grand Prix opener to Steve Beaton over the weekend and one fears Suljovic might be experiencing a dip in form right at the last. In keeping with the nature of this season, he could be as low as sixth if everything goes against, so anything less than his best could prove mightily costly.
Apart from a slip up against Daryl Gurney a couple of weeks ago, van Gerwen has been on fire recently. He thrives off pressure, seemingly rising to the occasion every time he is challenged and I think we will see those qualities again in this match. Suljovic, while being decent, hasn’t exactly set the world alight, which is what this tie will require of him. I still think he’s deserving of a playoff place and it’ll be a shame if a result here denies him, but van Gerwen wins this all day long for me.
Daryl Gurney vs Michael Smith
Daryl Gurney might be outside the playoff spots heading into the match, but there is every chance he’ll be there by the end. If he beats Michael Smith, only a van Gerwen defeat at the hands of Suljovic will deny him his place. There is plenty to suggest Gurney will take all the points too. He’s only lost two of his last ten Premier League meetings, including a vital draw last week after Gerwyn Price missed a match dart. His recent takedown of van Gerwen was particularly impressive and you suspect he will be the better of the two in this match.
That’s not meant as a slight against Michael Smith, but there has been a big gap between the two men’s form this year. Smith is seventh and the only way he can go at this point is further down. He is winless in each of his last seven Premier League games. He did show some good qualities last week, battling back from 7-5 against an in-form James Wade to earn a point. That might give him a little more confidence ahead of this encounter, but it says something about his season that the mere avoidance of a loss is a huge morale booster.
Maybe the stakes of this will add a little unpredictability to the proceedings, but I think there is a clear winner here. Gurney has a real chance to make the playoffs and that will be at the forefront of his mind. Smith has nothing to play for and has looked like it for some time now. While there is still undoubtedly some talent there, Smith hasn’t shown it and is unlikely to prevail. Gurney can be lethal when he needs to be and I think we’ll see a convincing victory.
James Wade vs Rob Cross
This is a massive, massive tie for both men. Rob Cross has been a delight to watch this season, matching the might of Michael van Gerwen for the majority of the season. He sits tentatively at the top of the table, with his Dutch counterpart hot on his heels one point behind. Despite his points advantage, Cross has a significantly worse leg difference, which could prove costly if results don’t go his way.
Much like Manchester City in the Premier League football this weekend, Cross knows a win here will see him top of the pile ahead of the playoffs. However, if Cross gets anything less and van Gerwen records either a win or a draw, he’ll drop into second. It means there’s a lot on the line here for the Englishman, but he’s not the only one with something to play for.
James Wade is currently third in the table but is in a similar position to Cross. Just the one point splits him, Mensur Suljovic and Daryl Gurney, and Wade could drop down as far as fifth if they both win. However, if one or both of those two fails to win, then he’ll have secured his playoff place before even throwing a dart. He’s in a good position, but Wade will want to record a result here regardless of the other fixtures. Essentially, this is a must-win match for both players, which means there could be some real sparks.
In terms of form, you would probably have Cross in front of his opponent, but only just. He rightly occupies top spot, but Wade’s performances haven’t been too far behind him. Both he, Cross and van Gerwen have lost just three matches all season and they probably are the three best players in the league. Not many have the ability to beat Cross, especially when the stakes are as high as this, but Wade is one of the few we can. I suspect it’s going to be a really good match, with some top-quality darts between two of the best. Depending on prior results in the day, the pressure here could be immense, and I have a feeling it might end in a stalemate.
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Cyrus has been writing about sports and many other topics for major publications over the past five years. Now working in digital marketing, he spends his days arguing over football and dreaming of his beloved Manchester City winning the champions league.