Premier League Darts-Week 3 Preview

The Anderson-van Gerwen rivalry continues tonight.

Michael van Gerwen is hoping to maintain his blistering form in 2015 as he takes on World Champion Gary Anderson at the Echo Arena in Liverpool. Stephen Bunting is aiming to record his first victory of the campaign on home turf as he tussles with Phil Taylor, whilst Peter Wright and Raymond van Barneveld face off in a battle that could have major repercussions for their respective seasons. James Wade vs Dave Chisnall Wade and Chisnall kick-off the action in Week 3, in what I believe will be a high-quality contest. Both men have made impressive starts to their campaign; Wade earning 3pts from his opening two matches, whilst Chisnall has made the perfect start, with wins over Wright and van Barneveld. Wade has openly admitted that missing out on last year’s Premier League was a major blow to him, however he enjoyed a successful 2014, reaching the World Grand Prix Final, and winning a dramatic Masters Final against Mervyn King, coming from 9-2 down to record an incredible 11-10 victory. The Aldershot thrower laid down a marker last week; comprehensively dispatching Kim Huybrechts with a 104 average and will be aiming to replicate a similar display against his St Helens opponent. Chisnall has significantly matured as a player over the last 12 months. His debut Premier League last season was encouraging yet frustrating. Chisnall acquitted himself well; his tournament average was a very respectable 96.68. The frustrating element for Chisnall was his inability to close out games; he lost 7-5 on four occasions; if he could have converted a couple of those losses into wins, he would have been firmly in the play-off picture. In his run to the Grand Slam Final in November, he demonstrated an impressive tenacity, recording excellent comeback victories against Keegan Brown and Kim Huybrechts, producing his best form in the critical moments, which is an invaluable quality. Even against van Barneveld last week; Chizzy was far from his best, but he showed good character to hit some crucial doubles and record a scrappy win in a game he may have lost last year. With both men making positive starts to the league format, they can play with a sense of freedom; Wade and Chisnall are rarely beaten heavily, so I expect an extremely close-fought contest that may result in a stalemate. Prediction:  Wade 6-6 Chisnall Peter Wright vs Raymond van Barneveld

van Barneveld
Defending champion van Barneveld will be desperate to get off the mark

Even in these early stages of the league format, this is a game neither player can afford to lose. Along with Kim Huybrechts, both Wright and van Barneveld have failed to register any points and with such difficult fixtures week-on-week, you can ill-afford to be cut adrift at the lower end of the table. Wright made some bullish claims at the beginning of 2015 that he was ready to ‘win everything’ this year; although he has yet to deliver on that promise. His constant tinkering with his set-up is not conducive to consistent performances; it’s somewhat ironic that he’s coming up against one of the most renowned tinkerers in world darts. Van Barneveld will be disappointed with his lacklustre start, particularly considering his excellent start to 2015. He reached the World Championship semi-finals, beating Stephen Bunting and Adrian Lewis en route, before reaching the Unibet Masters Final on February 1st, only to lose to an inspired Michael van Gerwen, who averaged 112 in an 11-6 victory over his Dutch compatriot. Van Barneveld was despatched 7-1 by Adrian Lewis in Week 1; Jackpot averaged a superb 113.8, his highest average on television. There was very little the five times World Champion could do to nullify Lewis’ incredible darts. However, in week 2, Barney suffered a 7-5 defeat to Dave Chisnall, despite leading 5-4. It was a nervy affair; the crowd’s involvement towards the latter stages of the contest visibly affected both men, particularly on the doubles. Barney recorded a miserly 5/24 attempts, missing 9 chances to secure at least a point. Van Barneveld will be anxious to make amends for last week, but Wright has shown gradual signs of improvement. Despite losing 7-1 to Anderson last week, Snakebite averaged 100, whilst he averaged 101 in a 6-2 defeat to Adrian Lewis at the German Masters last weekend, so although the results are lacking, the form is showing signs of improvement. Van Barneveld has history on his side; in 9 matches against Wright, the Dutchman has 7 victories, one draw and the solitary defeat. I believe this will be a tight and nervy encounter; given the implications of losing, it may be decided on one or two mistakes. I think van Barneveld’s slightly stronger scoring power may just prove decisive. Prediction: Wright 5-7 van Barneveld. Phil Taylor vs Stephen Bunting This could be a thrilling contest, as Stephen Bunting will face Phil Taylor in front of a partisan Liverpool crowd. Although securing only one point from his opening two fixtures, Bunting has acquitted himself well so far. He recorded a respectable draw against Wade in week one, before averaging 103 in a 7-3 defeat against an unrelenting van Gerwen last week. The 29-year-old has shown he is not fazed by the big crowds, so I don’t expect him to be overawed by the electric atmosphere. However, Bunting’s greatest concern will invariably be the small matter of facing the greatest player to have thrown a dart. Phil Taylor has endured a tumultuous last few months due to his mother’s passing, but he put his personal troubles aside and averaged 108 in beating Adrian Lewis last week. It was what is commonly described as a ‘typical Taylor’ display; his scoring was consistently heavy, his doubling ruthlessly efficient. If he produces the same level of performance, I don’t believe Bunting will be capable of living with the man from Stoke-on-Trent. Admittedly Taylor is not as consistent as he previously was, but he is a man with a point to prove. The majority of experts are talking about van Gerwen, Anderson and Lewis. This will act as sufficient motivation for Taylor; he will be eager to show he is still one of the main men. The start of the game is particularly important; if Bunting can establish an early lead, he may have the impetus to secure at least a point, but if Taylor surges ahead early, there is only one likely result. Prediction: Bunting 4-7 Taylor Michael van Gerwen vs Gary Anderson This could be very, very special. These men are unquestionably the two best players in the world at the moment. Anderson is seemingly relishing the World Champion tag; he’s made a perfect start to the league phase, beating Taylor and Wright thus far. However, he faces an uphill task to temper the animal that is Michael van Gerwen. He has responded phenomenally to his World Championship disappointment. There were some dissenting voices towards the latter stages of 2014 that van Gerwen’s dominance was on the wane, but he has silenced his critics, winning 30 out of 31 matches since his 6-3 defeat to Anderson at Alexandra Palace. His performance against the Scot in the German Masters was scintillating; he averaged 118 in a 6-2 triumph; he used just 46 darts to win the final four legs. That is simply unplayable. There’s a healthy edge between the pair. Anderson’s 4-3 defeat to van Gerwen in the Last 16 of the 2014 Worlds arguably initiated his renaissance. You get the sense that both players believe they are better than each-other, which makes for enthralling contests. Anderson referred to their rivalry in an interview with Live Darts, saying: “I’ve got a battle going on with Michael in my head. I’m going to raise my game and he’s going to have to do the same.” The full transcript can be found here….. It’s extremely difficult to predict the outcome, because both are capable of producing astronomical averages and completely blowing each-other away.  Both men are quick throwers; the pace suits both and is conducive to top darts. I expect maximums galore and the game could be won on a moment of brilliance, such as a big 161 or 167 checkout. Van Gerwen is prolific in taking out huge checkouts; I think he may just edge this thriller. Prediction: van Gerwen 7-5 Anderson. Adrian Lewis vs Kim Huybrechts

Adrian Lewis
Will Lewis maintain his fine start to 2015?

The final match of the night sees Adrian Lewis take on the Hurricane, Kim Huybrechts. Huybrechts has struggled to adjust to life in the Premier League; if he suffers another defeat against Jackpot, you have to fear for his chances of avoiding relegation. It’s extremely important for the Belgian to start quickly, in both games so far he’s been broken in the very early stages; it can be very difficult to resurrect the situation against confidence players, like van Gerwen and Lewis. Lewis has had a mixed start. He was phenomenal in dispatching the reigning Champion Raymond van Barneveld, but was rather lacklustre in a 7-2 defeat against Taylor. Consistency has been a major problem for Lewis in the Premier League; he has only reached the play-offs twice in seven years, for a player of his undeniable quality, that’s a surprising statistic. The 30-year-old has credited his manager Keith Deller with making him more focused and determined; but the challenge for Adrian will be maintaining his form over a 16-week period. Lewis was in excellent form at the German Masters, reaching the semi-finals and producing ton-plus averages, whereas Huybrechts suffered a humbling 6-4 defeat to the unconventional Austrian Mensur Suljovic. On current form, I have to opt for Lewis to dispose of the Belgian. Prediction: Lewis 7-4 Huybrechts

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