The Unibet Premier League Darts continues on Thursday night so check out Carl Fletcher’s match-by-match predictions, best bets and a suggested acca below.
Three nights in and we witnessed our first nine-darter of this year's event by the in-form Jonny Clayton. We also saw our first whitewash too as Dimitri Van Den Bergh beat Glen Durrant 7-0 to claim top spot in the standings. The table is beginning to take shape now and with two nights left to play in this first block of fixtures all players will be looking to end this week on a high.
Dimitri Van Den Bergh tops the table after three nights of the 2021 Premier League after backing his opening night draw up with two victories over Nathan Aspinall and Glen Durrant. Peter Wright currently sits in seventh place in the league with a draw, a defeat and a win from his opening three fixtures although he has arguably faced the toughest set of fixtures thus far as he has faced Jonny Clayton, Michael Van Gerwen and Gary Anderson.
‘Snakebite’ will be disappointed with the way he performed against Michael Van Gerwen although there is claims he wasn’t feeling the best but he bounced back well last night to always look in control as he beat his compatriot, Gary Anderson 7-4 with a 100.03 average. That was Wright’s eleventh ton plus average in his last fifteen matches and he currently averages 98.25 for 2021 across all events.
His 180 hitting ability in this years is very poor at just 0.13 per leg but he does boast the highest doubles percentage of the tournament so far at 57.69%. He may need this accuracy to continue however as his opponent has the best scoring game in the event with a whopping 115.40 first nine dart average.
Van Den Bergh, is certainly bolstering the claim that he’s a big game player as his tournament average of 99.69 is some three points above his seasonal average. A feature of the Belgians game has been his strong end to matches. From Legs seven onwards across his three matches he’s averaging 106.18, something which almost got him over the line in his opening match against Michael Van Gerwen and certainly helped him claim victory against Nathan Aspinall on night two.
This opening match of the night is a tough one to call and I’m going to elect to sit on the fence and go for the draw.
Jonny Claytons amazing 2021 just seems to continue. After seven legs last night it appeared the Welshman was producing one of his poorer performances of the year then all of a sudden he pops up with a nine darter swiftly followed legs of eleven and twelve darts to ruthlessly close out the game and register a 7-3 victory against Jose De Sousa who himself produced the highest average of this years events so far.
‘The Ferrets’ tournament average of 103.14 is currently highest of the ten players and the only one above 100 at this stage. He ominously looks like the best player at the moment and in his fifty matches he’s played this year he’s averaged more than his opponent in forty two of them. Averages are only a guide but that’s a strong indicator to how he’s playing and is backed up by the fact his seasonal average is the highest of the ten players too at 99.85.
Rob Cross was abruptly put in his place by a majestic MVG performance last night but there’s still lots of positives to take for him as he pushed the former long-time World Number One hard in the opening exchanges. During this event there’s a lot of the 2018 version of Rob Cross returning. His throws looks smoother than it has for a long time, he has a tournament average of 96.15, he’s notching up 180’s at a rate of 0.38 per leg and he his double hitting on Double 18 is currently at 66.67% (4/6).
There’s not much between them on the Head to Head with Cross holding a slight advantage but that was against the old Clayton. I expect the Welshman to continue his good run of form here despite being pushed all the way by ‘Voltage’ and cement his place in the top four.
Just the one meeting between these players if you exclude their home tour clash in 2020 and it was Jose De Sousa who came out on top in a Players Championship event back in 2019. They’ve both kicked on since then and have several PDC titles to their names.
De Sousa hasn’t quite lived up to the 180 hitting standards we expected of him so far and backers of him winning that market this year will be alarmed to see him switching to Treble 19 so frequently. In fact last night he registered twenty-eight Treble 20’s and twenty-seven Treble 19’s. On that basis at the moment I’ll be watching with interest on the 180 front.
Having said that his 108.48 average last night was the highest set in this years event so far and he is the only players in the opening three nights to lose with the higher average. These high averages are a regular occurrence for ‘The Special One’ who in 2021 has already produced average of 106.26, 107.41 and 110.12 with eight of his last eleven matches seeing him produce a standard of 100+.
Alarmingly for him however he only has one draw to his name. He should’ve probably opened up with victory over Rob Cross, letting a late lead slip. He’s then been relatively easily brushed aside late on by both Gary Anderson and Jonny Clayton in his latest two matches. He really needs to start racking up the wins now.
‘The Asp’ though will be very pleased with his start having secured two wins versus Durrant and Wade either side of a 7-5 defeat to table topping Van Den Bergh. He will see this as another opportunity to pick up maximum points here.
Aspinall has been consistent so far if not spectacular with averages of 97.62, 98.32 and 96.50 which makes him competitive in every match. He only hit two maximums last night but in his first two matches he notched up five in each. He also went seven deep into the nine last night only to falter on Treble 19 although he didn’t have to be at his best to beat Wade on Wednesday night in a match that finished closer than it should have.
His finishing has been relatively good this week. He remains arguably the best double eight hitter in the event. He has a 75% strike rate on it so far (6/8) which backs up the fact he hit more of that double than anyone else in last years event with 21 and an impressive strike rate of 55.26% to boot. He remains the only player to have registered a 100+ out shot in all three matches played thus far also.
As the betting suggests there’s nothing between the two but I’m going for Aspinall to close out a nervy game.
Ahead of the event, late replacement James Wade said he hadn’t picked up a dart since his last competitive match and despite playing well enough to pick up a point on the opening night he’s looked well off the pace in his last two matches, losing 7-3 to Rob Cross and 7-4 to Nathan Aspinall. He currently languishes in ninth place in the league and has a tournament average of 93.35 with only bottom of the table Glen Durrant having a lower one. He currently is on a run of four matches without victory and that something that didn’t occur at all during 2020.
It doesn’t bode well for ‘The Machine’ when you look at the recent head to head with his opponent either. Since his last victory over MVG – which coincidently was also Night Four of the Premier League, back in 2019 – the pair have met seven times. They drew their next meeting and Van Gerwen has since won the last six.
Interestingly in all these last seven meetings ‘Mighty Mike’ as notched up a ton average. His average across the seven matches is 105.80, his doubles percentage (in the stage matches between them) is 54.43%, his leg win percentage is 63%, he’s won 20% of his legs with a ton plus out shot and he’s hit thirty one 180’s. This signs look unfavourable for Wade.
MVG’s recent form doesn’t offer any more encouragement either. His average last night of 107.58 was his highest of 2021 as he hit a ton plus average for ninth time in fourteen games. On the back of this he’s a 100% record on check outs below 70 this week, hitting all fifteen attempts at them and he’s only failed to win 1 leg in the opening three matches where he’s had darts at a double.
It will be no surprise to read that I’m predicting the tournament favourite to come out on top here and fairly comfortable too as he aims to return to the summit.
If you watched last nights action you can’t help but feel for ‘Duzza’. He’s going through one of those spells at the moment that no darter wants to go through and as he tries to rectify this slump he couldn’t be in a harder tournament. The Premier League is so unforgiving, especially in this current block format, there’s no hiding place that’s for sure.
His form at the moment just isn’t there. Since securing the 2020 Premier League Title, Durrant has won just fourteen of the thirty eight matches he’s played. He’s on a run of six straight defeats in all competitions, his last five performances have seen him average below ninety in all and you have to go back to 20 September 2020 in the World Series of Darts Finals Quarter Final versus James Wade for his last ton plus match average of 102.46 as he lost in a last leg decider.
One positive however he can feed off is he has a marginal better head to head record against his opponent including two wins and a draw in the 2020 version of this tournament. He’ll need to get a foothold in this match if he’s to get anything from this match and he’ll know that event more after last night when he missed eleven darts at the double in leg one then a further four in leg three, something which he never recovered from as he was whitewashed by Dimitri Van Den Bergh.
Anderson himself lost last night too and despite not looking overly happy with his game at times he almost got back in the game which is testament to just how good ‘The Flying Scotsman’ is.
His scoring power is certainly on point, he has a tournament average of 98.90, a treble twenty accuracy of 45% and all his winning legs have been in eighteen darts or fewer. His doubling at times can let him down. Some of his ‘go to’ doubles in particular. His percentage on double twenty is a respectable 44.44% but he’s yet to hit double ten (0/3) or double twelve (0/5), thankfully double five has been his friend at 80% (4/5).
I don’t think the slow pace of Glen suits Gary and I think ‘Duzza’ could have more to shout about in this match than most think he has. I can envisage him getting into a tussle early on only especially if Gary’s double troubles continue but the power scoring for the Scotsman will see him prevail late on.