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Last week lived up to this season’s Premier League drama when Luke Humphries became the first ever challenger to win a Premier League match when he beat Gary Anderson 7-5 in Exeter. This week, the action moves to the M&S Bank Arena, Liverpool where Glen Durrant and Michael Smith arrive as joint leaders with seven points from the first five matches. Both will be aware of the pressure being applied by the chasing pack led by Michael Van Gerwen who was in great form to win the UK Open at Butlins, Minehead on Sunday when he beat Gerwyn Price in the final. At the bottom of the table, time is beginning to run out on Daryl Gurney’s chances of making it through to the second phase of this season’s campaign. The Ulsterman is two points adrift in ninth place and will be targeting a win to close the gap between him and Rob Cross in eighth place. Charlie Mullan, whose five selected bets all landed last week at a combined 28/1, analyses this week’s matches.
Michael Smith (7/4) and Peter Wright (21/20) get the action under way in Liverpool with Smith looking to continue his great form in this season’s Premier League. Since losing his opening match to Glen Durrant, Smith is unbeaten in his last four and he has won his last three. He is this season’s Premier League’s in-form player and it is down to the current world champion to derail Smith’s quest for glory. Last week, Smith produced a solid performance to beat Michael Van Gerwen 7-4. Bully Boy took control of the match when he broke Van Gerwen in the fourth leg to lead 3-1 and followed that up with another leg on Mighty Micky’s throw in the sixth leg to lead 6-1.
Despite a late rally from the Dutchman, Smith held on to win 7-4. Smith’s checkout of 134 was the highest finish of the night and he might need high checkout to take control of this match against Wright who bounced back from his heavy defeat to Gerwyn Price to beat Nathan Aspinall 7-3. Wright finished the night with a three-dart average of 110.00 which is the highest of the Premier League season so far. After losing three legs on his own throw against Price in Dublin, Wright won all five legs on his throw while steals two legs on the in-form Aspinall’s throw in the third and ninth legs. Smith has lost just one leg on his throw in the last three weeks and Wright, who is top of the 180s table, might need to hit more maximums to stay in this match.
Judgement night is just three weeks away and that does not give Daryl Gurney (17/10) much time to turn his Premier League campaign around. Superchin is still the only player yet to record a win. He will have left Exeter with mixed emotions after leading Rob Cross 3-0 and 5-4 only to rescue a point in a 6-6 draw by holding his nerve to win the 12th and final leg. Gurney has lost 11 legs on his own throw which is the second most in the league and Gurney is facing Glen Durrant (11/10) who, over his five matches has lost just seven legs after throwing the first dart which is the best in the league. Don’t expect the match referee to call out 1-8-0 too often as these players are ranked eighth and ninth in that statistic.
Durrant has hit the maximum just six times while Gurney has landed 10 maximums. Gurney needs to score high and often if he is to register his first win of the season and his form at the UK Open at the weekend show give him encouragement. It seems the longer the format of the game, the better Gurney plays as he showed to rally in many of his matches at the weekend to reach the semi-finals only to be beaten by Michael Van Gerwen who became the second player to throw a 9-darter against Gurney in 11 days after Michael Smith did it against Gurney in Dublin.
If the third and middle match of the evening between Gerwyn Price (39/20) and Michael Van Gerwen (20/21) is as good as the last time they met, then we should be in for a cracking contest. These two players battled it out in Sunday’s final of the UK Open which the Dutchman won 11-9 but Price will see it as a missed opportunity. The Iceman started the final on fire winning five of the opening six legs but even he knew there would be fightback. And what a fightback it was from Mighty Mike who won 10 of the next 14 legs. Van Gerwen averaged 101.42 in the final and registered his seventh televised 9-darter in the semi-final.
If he can carry that form into this week’s Premier League match, then he should be back to winning ways after losing to Michael Smith in his last league game even though his average of 99.43 was much better than his opponent who finished the match with an average of 95.42. Price suffered his first lost of the Premier League season when he was well beaten by Glen Durrant 7-3. It was another match in which Price got off to a slow start losing the first four legs and he never recovered. Van Gerwen is the only player, after five rounds, to have an average over 100 (100.77). Both players are hard to break so this could end in a draw unless one can find a way of stealing a leg somewhere along the way.
Rob Cross (5/6) has struggled for form in the Premier League with just one win from his five matches so far. Since beating Nathan Aspinall in Nottingham in the second round of matches, Cross has lost two and drew his last league game with Daryl Gurney in a match that saw six legs won against the throw. No player has lost more legs on their own throw than Cross who has been broken 13 times. That will give this week’s challenger and world number 17 Stephen Bunting (9/4) plenty of encouragement as he looks to follow Luke Humphries’ excellent win over Gary Anderson to become the first challenger to win a Premier League match.
Cross has remained competitive in all his matches with all five of his matches coming down to the final leg and that is down in no small part to his ability to land 180s at crucial times. Only the Scottish pair – Gary Anderson (17) and Peter Wright (17) have thrown more maximums than Cross who hit six of 15 doubles in his draw with Gurney. Cross will have the first throw in this match and he will hope to buck the unwanted trend of his last two matches. Against Gary Anderson in Dublin and Gurney last week in Exeter, Cross threw the first dart of the match, but went on to lose the first leg. The pair met in the UK Open at the weekend with Cross, who has won all four meetings with Bunting in the past, winning 10-8.
The final match of the evening sees Nathan Aspinall (5/4) and Gary Anderson (29/20) go head-to-head. Both players are looking to bounce back from defeats in Exeter where Aspinall was well beaten by Peter Wright 7-3 while Anderson will go down in history as being the first player to lose a Premier League match to a challenger when Luke Humphries won 7-5. Anderson lost the first leg on his own throw but recovered to lead 3-2 after the fifth leg. But trouble on the doubles was Anderson’s downfall and he finished the night with just five (21.74 per cent) hit from 23 which was the lowest of any of nine regular players since Daryl Gurney (16.67) in Nottingham in round two.
Aspinall went to Exeter on the back of successive 7-5 wins over Michael Van Gerwen and Glen Durrant, but he came up against Peter Wright at the top of his game. Aspinall is second in the league in efficiency on the doubles landing with 45.31 per cent of his 64 attempts. Aspinall will fancy his chances of getting back to winning ways after beating Anderson in their two previous meetings in the Players Championship last October and their meeting in the World Championships over Christmas.
Michael Smith to have the higher checkout over Peter Wright @ 20/23
Glen Durrant to have the higher checkout than Daryl Gurney @ 4/5
Michael Van Gerwen to hit more 180s than Gerwyn Price @ 10/11
Rob Cross to have more 180s than Stephen Bunting @ 11/10
Gary Anderson more 180s than Nathan Aspinall at 1/1
Odds to win the 2020 Premier League:
11/10 – Michael Van Gerwen
9/2 – Peter Wright
7/1 – Gerwyn Price
10/1 – Michael Smith
11/1 – Nathan Aspinall
12/1 – Gary Anderson
14/1 – Glen Durrant
22/1 – Rob Cross
80/1 – Daryl Gurney