The Unibet Premier League Darts season reaches its climax with the Play-Offs at the O2 and we have match-by-match previews with predictions, best bets and statistics.
- Follow @ChrisHammer180 on Twitter
- LISTEN TO THE SPORTING LIFE DARTS PODCAST
- 2019 Premier League results, highlights & reviews
So after 15 weeks and 73 matches across 16 nights, the 2019 Premier League season draws to a close at the O2.
There's been 428 180s, three 170s checkouts, a rare whitewash, shock wins, gutsy comebacks, one retirement (U-turned 24 hours later!), nine 'Contenders' and the best atmosphere ever created thanks to one of them - John Henderson!
But at the end of it, Michael van Gerwen topped the regular season table for the seventh year in a row and is obviously favourite to lift the title for a fourth time in succession and fifth overall.
However, just to get to the final he'll need to get revenge over Daryl Gurney, who became the second player to do a 'regular season double' over him, while in the second semi it's Rob Cross up against James Wade.
I'lI now preview both semi-finals, complete with head-to-head records, season stats so far, match verdicts and suggested bets - plus a reminder of how the table finished.
Premier League Darts Finals Night: Thursday May 23
Click on the odds for more Sky Bet match markets
- TV Coverage: Sky Sports (1900 GMT)
- Format: Semi-finals best-of-19 legs, final best-of-21
Double: Daryl Gurney & James Wade at 9/1
Tournament Average: 101.94 - 96.72
Best Average: 110.85 - 104.05
Tournament 180s: 41 - 45
Checkout %: 49.08% (107/218) - 40.26% (93/231)
High Checkout: 132 - 140
Head-to-head: 19-5 (1 draw)
Meetings since start of 2018: 9-3 ( 1 draw)
PL Meetings in 2019: 0-2 (5-7 & 5-8)
Other Meetings: 1-0 (7-3 in Austrian Darts Open)
PDC Titles Since Start of 2018: 24-2
PDC Titles in 2019: 7-1
Career Titles: 126-4
Daryl Gurney may well be one of the most negative thinkers in darts but he's deservedly earned his spot in the Premier League Play-Offs for good reason - he's a tremendous player with an abundance of battling spirit to perform under pressure.
Last Thursday night in Leeds was the latest example of this when he headed into his must-win clash with Michael Smith as a bag of nerves after watching Gerwyn Price produce a superb display against Peter Wright to leapfrog him in the table.
Gurney defied the pressure to average over 101 and put last year's runner-up to the sword in an 8-3 victory which proved enough to qualify for Finals Night after Mensur Suljovic failed to beat Michael van Gerwen.
Imagine how good the world number three would be if he believed in himself a bit more?
Earlier in the season the Northern Irishman suffered 7-1 and 7-0 defeats in successive weeks and then found himself 6-3 down against Peter Wright and on the brink of another damaging result which could have sent many players into a downward spiral.
He won the next three legs for a draw to stop the rot and in the next 10 games he won six, including the double over MVG, and drew two to earn his spot at the O2.
In becoming the second man to defeat van Gerwen twice in one Premier League regular season, Gurney made it a hat-trick of victories over the world number one having memorably overcome him to win the Players Championship Finals title last November.
Gurney lost their most recent encounter at the Austrian Darts Open but those three televised victories still taught him the 'secret' of doing what so many players struggle to do against him - play at your own pace and stay in the game. That'll count for a lot on Thursday night.
As for van Gerwen, he obviously talks a much better game than Gurney and more often than not backs it up with a performance to match.
He heads into the play-offs having maintained his perfect record of topping the regular season table in all seven of his previous campaigns while he's also won seven titles this year from just 14 events entered, including four on the stage of the European Tour and the televised Masters.
However, his defeats to Glen Durrant and Robert Thornton at the weekend - albeit in the Players Championship events on the floor - highlighted the vulnerabilities we've seen from him and his aura is not as strong as it was.
I'm going to be bold and back Gurney here at 7/2 while for those who want a bigger price, how about throwing in the most 180s as well to bump it up to 6/1? SuperChin has hit four more maximums than MVG this season with 45 and if he's going to play well enough to win, then it seems a reasonable call.
Another bet which doesn't require the shock result is for there to be over 15.5 legs, a high checkout of over 129.5 and over 8.5 180s at 3/1.
Scoreline Prediction: 8-10
Suggested Bets: Gurney to win at 7/2 (Sky Bet) , Gurney to win with the most 180s at 6/1 (Sky Bet) & match to have over 15.5 legs, a high checkout of over 129.5 and over 8.5 180s at 3/1 (Sky Bet) .
Tournament Average: 99.69 - 97.87
Best Average: 104.71 - 109.59
Tournament 180s: 54 - 44
Checkout %: 44.16% (102/231) - 43.70% (104/238)
High Checkout: 164 - 161
Meetings since start of 2018: 5-2
PL Meetings in 2019: 1-1 (7-4 & 6-8)
Other Meetings: N/A
PDC Titles since start of 2018: 2-5
PDC Titles in 2019: 0-3
Career Titles: 7-33
Rob Cross fell at the last hurdle in his effort to break Michael van Gerwen's annual monopoly of the £25,000 league leader's bonus but that can't distract from what has been a highly impressive regular season.
He won the same amount of games as MVG with 10, his legs difference of +26 underlines his dominance in many games and he averaged over 100 more times than anyone with 10.
And while the old 'bank manager' won't have been happy about his below par display against James Wade last Thursday, Voltage has clearly got the game, form and confidence to make amends by pocketing the £250,000 top prize.
A potential sticking point, however, is something Wade alluded to in Leeds last Thursday when claiming he thought Cross would be nervous with top spot on the line - and it seemed to be the case.
Is he perhaps trying to prove himself too much? Although he's consistently playing so much better than last year, when the strains of being world champion got to him, there must still be that nagging pressure to win another big title since that glorious run at Alexandra Palace over two years ago.
Voltage was runner-up at the UK Open, where he ran out of steam in the final against Nathan Aspinall, while he's not managed to win a Players Championship or European Tour title this season despite going close on a number of occasions.
Wade on the other hand has picked up three titles - albeit in the floor events - while his televised triumphs at last year's European Championship and World Series of Darts Finals are still fresh enough in the memory to draw that extra bit of confidence on the big stage he knows so much. Not that he needs it though, given his own self belief.
The unruffled Aldershot man, who never seems fazed by any challenge, has found an extra gear with his performances this year, backing up his usual impeccable timing with heavier scoring than we've perhaps been used to in recent seasons.
I'm going to give Wade the edge here but it should be another close one. For those who agree, the best bet here is for Wade to win, hit over 2.5 180s and have a checkout of over 89.5 at 9/4. Surely he can't triumph and not hit those targets?!
If you want a bigger price then how about Wade to triumph with six or more 180s at 8/1. He's hit 44 this season and if we can get at least 16 legs then he should achieve this mark.
Scoreline Prediction: 8-10
Suggested Bet: Wade to win, hit over 2.5 180s and a checkout of over 89.5 at 9/4 (Sky Bet), Wade to win with six or more 180s at 8/1 (Sky Bet)
Predicted Final: Daryl Gurney v James Wade
Well, considering there won't be many who agree with this predicted final line-up, I won't go into too much detail. Plus, you obviously can't even bet on it yet.
I doubt either semi-final will be particularly straight forward to say the least but Daryl Gurney will surely have had to use up a lot of mental energy if he's to see off Michael van Gerwen in this longer format. That said, he does have most time to rest being in that opening match of the night.
In James Wade's favour he's got far more experience of triumphing on big nights such at this and his return to winning televised majors at the back end of last year should give him the edge.
2019 Premier League Darts Table
- Van Gerwen (Q) P 16 W 10 D 3 L 3 LegD +40 Pts 23
- Cross (Q) P 16 W 10 D 2 L 4 LegD +26 Pts 22
- Wade (Q) P 16 W 7 D 6 L 3 LegD +20 Pts 20
- Gurney (Q) P 16 W 8 D 3 L 5 LegD +7 Pts 19
- Price P 16 W 6 D 6 L 4 LegD +6 Pts 18
- Suljovic P 16 W 7 D 3 L 6 LegD +5 Pts 17
- Smith P 16 W 3 D 4 L 9 LegD -26 Pts 10
- Wright P 16 W 2 D 5 L 9 LegD -33 Pts 9
- Relegated: Van Barneveld P 9 W 1 D 2 L 6 LegD -22 Pts 4