The Premier League Darts season heads to Aberdeen on Thursday night and we have match-by-match predictions, best bets and suggested accas.
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On Thursday night the roadshow stops off in Aberdeen where a wounded Michael van Gerwen will be hungry to bounce back with a vengeance against this week's 'Contender' John Henderson while the action all kicks off with a UK Open semi-final rematch between Michael Smith and Rob Cross.
Raymond van Barneveld faces an almost 'must-win' clash with Peter Wright as he bids to keep alive his hopes of making the play-offs in his final season, Gerwyn Price attempts to remain unbeaten when he takes on Mensur Suljovic and James Wade won't be short of confidence against Daryl Gurney having defeated MVG last Thursday.
Below I run through all the fixtures, complete with head-to-head records, season stats so far, match verdicts, suggested bets and accas - plus a reminder of how the table looks.
Premier League Night Five: Thursday March 7
Click on the odds for more Sky Bet match markets
- TV Coverage: Sky Sports (1900 GMT)
- Format: Maximum of 12 legs
Treble: Smith, Price and Barney at 20/1
Four Fold: Smith, Gurney, Price and Barney at 49/1
Draw no bet accas: Both the above at 9/1 and 18/1
2019 PL Average: 96.20 - 100.41
Best Average: 98.79 - 103.57
Tournament 180s: 15 - 11
Checkout %: 41.82% (23/55) - 50% (22/44)
High Checkout: 150 - 153
Meetings since start of 2018: 2-5
PDC Titles Since Start of 2018: 3-2
Career Titles: 11-7
It took a lot of mental energy, guts and quality darts for anyone to reach the final day given the amount of best-of-19/21 leg matches across a draining weekend in Minehead, where there were a whopping 159 in action, so for Smith to do so while hobbling on a leg that had an abscess removed from it is highly commendable.
Bully Boy ran out of steam against Rob Cross on Sunday night in a fairly close 11-7 defeat but still managed a solid average in the mid-90s, hit seven 180s and was just let down by his pretty poor finishing that was forgivable given the circumstances.
He relied on his supreme natural ability over the three days, which came to the fore during those splendidly quickly 10-3 and 10-1 victories over Jermaine Wattimena and Steve Beaton while he showed plenty of spirit to defeat Daryl Gurney 10-9 in the last 32.
Essentially, after a stuttering start to the campaign that can probably be traced back to his lack of pre-season practice in January due to his wedding and honeymoon, he's really starting to show why a major title must come sooner than later - and he should be feeling in much less pain by Thursday night to gain a measure of revenge on Cross.
Voltage will be fairly satisfied with his weekend as a whole having reached his first major final since winning the world title at the start of 2018 but the way he capitulated and completely ran out of charge against Nathan Aspinall will be hard to take.
It should be a cracking match in Aberdeen with both players feeling much fresher and raring to go but I'm going to give the edge to Smith here as well as throw in the most 180s to bump that price up a little.
Suggested bet: Smith to win and hit most 180s at 3/1
2019 PL Average: 97.08 - 99.90
Best Average: 100.05 - 103.89
Tournament 180s: 7 - 14
Checkout %: 40.43% (19/47) - 47.06% (24/51)
High Checkout: 140 - 129
Meetings since start of 2018: 1-1
PDC Titles Since Start of 2018: 1-2
Career Titles: 3-30
I'm sure there'll be plenty of punters marking this one down as a draw and it is certainly one of the toughest matches to call of the night.
Daryl Gurney endured a horrible night in Exeter last Thursday when so nearly becoming the 10th player in history to be whitewashed before 'escaping' with a 7-1 defeat and two days later he bowed out of the UK Open in just his second game.
However - and it's a big however - he was of course handed a rotten draw against Michael Smith in a match he lost 10-9 while averaging 97.5 so we'll have to brand it an unfortunate weekend rather than a poor one.
James Wade on the other hand inflicted Michael van Gerwen's first defeat of the Premier League season last Thursday with a superb trademark display of timing and punishing his opponent's errors but then blew a golden opportunity to cash in on the Dutchman's shock exit of the UK Open.
He looked so impressive against James Wilson, winning 10-1, before battling past Max Hopp 10-7 only to slump to a shock 10-7 defeat to journeyman Ross Smith. That's not meant to disrespect Smith in any way, but Wade will no doubt be feeling worse about his tournament than Gurney.
I do think the Northern Irishman can edge this one and he'll go into my four-fold acca - but given how close it could be, my best bet is in the Match Action market where you can get 13/8 on it to have over 10.5 legs, a high checkut of over 101.5 and more than 4.5 180s.
Suggested bet: Over 10.5 legs, high checkout of 101.5+ and over 4.5 180s at 13/8
2019 PL Average: 98.71 - 98.85
Best Average: 101.07 - 104.11
Tournament 180s: 9 - 16
Checkout %: 44% (22/50) - 43.10% (25/58)
High Checkout: 121 - 140
Meetings since start of 2018: 2-2
PDC Titles Since Start of 2018: 2-4
Career Titles: 5-6
On this week's edition of the Sporting Life Darts Podcast, we discussed whether Gerwyn Price is the best player in the world on absolute current form.
The Welshman is producing high quality darts in both the scoring and finishing departments on a very consistent basis at the moment and that's in no small part down to getting his mojo back after losing it during a miserable slump following his Grand Slam of Darts final success against Gary Anderson - due to a combination of vociferous crowd booing and that big £21,500 fine.
Price's unbeaten start to the Premier League season, his back-to-back Players Championship titles, plus a fantastic run to the UK Open semi-finals means he'll head to Aberdeen as very much the form horse so to speak - even if he may feel a second big TV major got away from him on Sunday.
Performance-wise, few would deny he was the most impressive player of the weekend with his three 100+ averages and a host of big checkouts including a 167 to complete a stunning comeback against Jamie Hughes - not to mention the 167 that started it - and it was arguably just a case of a slow start costing him dearly against Aspinall.
It did look at one stage as if he was going to reel in the Stockport star and gain revenge for his World Championship defeat but in an outstanding 17th leg, Aspinall produced a moment of magic that we'll never tire of watching.
In terms of head-to-head meetings, Price has the advantage over Suljovic with nine wins out of 14 and defeated him so memorably in the Grand Slam of Darts semi-finals thanks to a gutsy comeback although the Austrian did edge their World Grand Prix and Premier League encounters in 2018.
Suljovic lost his second match at the UK Open but he'll feel unlucky to have been drawn against Dimitri van den Bergh, who edged it 10-9, having had to battle past Peter Wright 10-8 in a high quality affair on Friday night.
Nevertheless I've got to stick with Price while he's in the form of his life and if you throw in the most 180s, you can get 3/1. He's hit 16 maximums in the Premier League this season, with Suljovic making nine.
Suggested bet: Price to win and hit the most 180s at 3/1
2019 PL Average: 92.49 - 96.17
Best Average: 95.15 - 101.56
Tournament 180s: 8 - 13
Checkout %: 41.67% (20/48) - 41.82% (23/55)
High Checkout: 104 - 100
Head-to-head: 11-11 (4 draws)
Meetings since start of 2018: 3-3
PDC Titles Since Start of 2018: 0-2
Career Titles: 41-22
I don't think it's an exaggerate to say Raymond van Barneveld is drinking in the last chance saloon if he wants to reach the Premier League play-offs in his final season before retirement.
Statistically Barney has been the worst player of the nine although the way he got out of jail to rescue points against Gerwyn Price and Mensur Suljovic was a joy to behold as we were reminded why he retains the title of People's Champion - even if there's been no tangible trophies won as an individual added to his cabinet for five years.
The Dutch legend also fell out of the world's top 32 for the first time since 2006 after falling at his first hurdle in the UK Open to 1000/1 tournament outsider Simon Stevenson, who went on to reach the quarter-finals, and sadly this wasn't really much of a surprise given his poor form in all events this season.
Van Barneveld came out fighting on Twitter saying: "People writing me off already and that's fine. This year would be a marathon not a sprint I knew that at the start. Was hoping for better results but if anyone thinks I am giving up already you better think again. And YES it hurts losing every time but I am trying and I am fighting my own battles. One at a time. Didn’t play a lot of tournaments 2 years ago so getting some results in at pro tours or euro tours will get me back up hopefully but it will be small steps I realise that."
At this rate he's going to struggle qualifying for more big TV events in his 'swansong' season and while this tournament offers no ranking points, he may have to target it as his best chance of achieving one final career highlight.
Fortunately in a week he must win his first Premier League match of the season, he happens to be up against a player who hasn't quite got going himself - Peter Wright.
Snakebite did average 106 during his early UK Open demise to Mensur Suljovic so we can't write off the event as a disaster but equally this won't have done his confidence any good.
Wright also lost to the Austrian in the Premier League last week while his overall average in this tournament of 96.17 is only better than Barney's 92.49.
I'm going to side with van Barneveld but back him in the Player Performance market at 5/1 where he has to win, score over 2.5 180s and have a checkout of over 72.5. They are very low levels and you'd think he'd achieve those if he wins this clash.
Suggested bet: Barney to win, score over 2.5 180s and have a checkout of over 72.5 at 5/1
2019 PL Average: 100.12 - N/A
Best Average: 104.98 - N/A
Tournament 180s: 12 - N/A
Checkout %: 40% (24/60) - N/A
High Checkout: 124 - N/A
Meetings since start of 2018: 0-0
PDC Titles Since Start of 2018: 22-0
Career Titles: 120-0
To say Michael van Gerwen is licking his wounds is somewhat of an understatement after such a strong start to the season came to a shuddering halt in the space of two days.
Not only were his hopes of going through the Premier League campaign unbeaten unexpectedly ended by James Wade in Exeter, but he then lost his opening match at the UK Open for the second year in a row.
Twelve months on from being shocked by Jeffrey de Zwaan in the behind closed doors edition of the event, he was once again a shadow of his usual self when suffering a 10-6 defeat to Mervyn King that very few saw coming. Especially in his comfort zone of a big main stage.
But it was a stark reminder of why doubters did question his dominance prior to the World Championship and why he's not always head and shoulders above his rivals. He has his off days and poor runs of form like everyone else.
Last week I did tip Wade on the handicap to beat van Gerwen so I was obviously a tad frustrated not to have been bolder - but I'm still going to stick with the same strategy on Thursday.
John Henderson is a huge price in this shortish format to thrill the Aberdeen crowd by defeating the Dutchman for the second time in a row - although you have to go back to that incredible opening night of the 2017 World Grand Prix for their last competitive meeting.
Hendo is widely heralded as the nicest man on the circuit and while he's never won a PDC title, he's an extremely steady player who earns enough decent results to be ranked as highly as 21 in the world.
Sure, he was fortunate that Aberdeen hosted a Premier League night before Judgement Night otherwise he wouldn't have got the call to be one of the nine 'Contenders' but that's not to say he can't at least push an out of sorts MVG with the crowd behind him.
I can't see him winning but at 13/5 with a 2.5 leg head start, he's worth a small flutter.
Suggested bet: Henderson (+2.5 legs) to win at 13/5
2019 Premier League Darts Table
- MVG P 4 W 3 D 0 L 1 LegD +7 Pts 6
- Wade P 4 W 2 D 1 L 1 LegD +4 Pts 5
- Cross P 4 W 2 D 1 L 1 LegD +4 Pts 5
- Price P 4 W 1 D 3 L 0 LegD +3 Pts 5
- Suljovic P 4 W 1 D 2 L 1 LegD -1 Pts 4
- Wright P 4 W 1 D 2 L 1 LegD -1 Pts 4
- Gurney P 4 W 2 D 0 L 2 LegD -3 Pts 4
- Smith P 4 W 1 D 1 L 2 LegD -1 Pts 3
- Van Barneveld P 4 W 0 D 2 L 2 LegD -6 Pts 2