Raymond van Barneveld and Phil Taylor will renew their rivalry as the Premier League roadshow heads to Glasgow in Week 7. The league’s top two, Dave Chisnall and Michael van Gerwen face off, whilst Gary Anderson will aim to mark his competitive return to Glasgow with another victory. Elsewhere, James Wade and Adrian Lewis battle it out, whilst Peter Wright and Stephen Bunting clash in a game that could have major repercussions for the relegation scrap. It’s been an intriguing Premier League so far. The standard is superb and there is no one player that appears inferior. All 10 players are top-class, and there are as many as 5 relegation candidates with judgement night rapidly approaching.
James Wade vs Adrian Lewis
Although the table may suggest otherwise, this is a contest between two in-form players. Adrian Lewis has performed superbly on the tour this year, reaching at least the quarter-finals in 7 out of 8 floor events in 2015. Wade enjoyed a fantastic weekend in Barnsley; reaching the final of Saturday’s event, losing 6-5 to Gary Anderson, before making amends by beating another Scot, Peter Wright, by the same score-line in Sunday’s showpiece. The Aldershot ace produced some ‘machine-like’ displays; winning some extremely tight encounters, due to typically clinical finishing, in the decisive moments.
Adrian Lewis has recently changed his darts, which is quite a significant deal for Jackpot. Lewis is not renowned for tinkering with his equipment, but I believe it’s admirable that the top players are always striving to improve their game and transform themselves to the next level. Lewis suffered a 7-1 drubbing at the hands of Gary Anderson last week, although the result didn’t reflect Lewis’ display. He averaged 103 and played extremely well, but the World Champion was in unrelenting mood; with a combination of devastating scoring and ruthless finishing.
Whilst both players will head into the game in positive spirits, Wade holds the advantage in terms of the head-to-head record between the pair, having won 5 out of their last 6 Premier League meetings. Lewis has an indifferent record in the competition which I find slightly baffling given his quality and he is a potential relegation candidate. Wade’s in confident form and I think he will be able to play with more freedom, which could prove decisive.
Prediction: Wade 7-4 Lewis
Peter Wright vs Stephen Bunting
A few weeks ago, Peter Wright and Stephen Bunting were looking the most likely candidates for relegation, however their deep runs in the UK Open have given them both new found belief, and the winner of this clash will be assured of survival. Wright has been heaping the pressure on Bunting ahead of the showdown in Glasgow, claiming that the Scottish crowd and the pressure of the occasion will overwhelm the Bullet. Well, something like that!
Wright and Bunting met just two weeks ago in the Coral UK Open Semi-Finals. Snakebite was in blistering form and whitewashed Bunting 10-0; the Liverpool man failed to register a score of 140 in the entire contest. Bunting seems very level-headed and quietly self-assured, but that defeat must be weighing on his mind, which is why I give Wright the edge.
Bunting’s performance against Dave Chisnall was very professional in Nottingham, but Chizzy failed to put the Bullet under much pressure in the opening stages. Wright seems in very confident vein and he has the impetus, plus the advantage of the home crowd. If Snakebite establishes an early lead, it’s inevitable that Bunting may fear another drubbing, so the opening few legs could be absolutely critical.
Prediction: Wright 7-4 Bunting
Raymond van Barneveld vs Phil Taylor
Those who have followed me for some time will know that I am a huge Raymond van Barneveld fan. Van Barneveld is in a precarious position in the table, although talks of his demise are very premature in my opinion. He should arguably be on 6 points, having surrendered leads against Chisnall and Wright in Week 2 and Week 3 respectively. He has recorded two 100+ averages and a 99 average in 3 of the 6 weeks, so his form has not exactly diminished, even if he has lacked his usual consistency. He’s also been far more proficient on the floor in 2015 thus far, reaching two quarter-finals and a semi-final in 8 of the tour competitions in this calendar year.
Van Barneveld has been a figure of consistency in the Premier League over the years, reaching the play-offs in 7 out of 9 campaigns. He has tough matches against Michael van Gerwen and Gary Anderson remaining before Judgement Night, so will need to produce his best form to avoid relegation, but he often thrives on the big occasion. Raymond is speaking positively of late and he maintains that his form is good. He appears relaxed about his league position, because he knows these results are not indicative of a terminal decline.
However, Taylor will provide an extremely tough test. He has been in imperious form this year; recording 100+ averages in 23 out of 25 competitive matches in 2015, but he was visibly affected by nerves in last week’s clash against Michael van Gerwen, which is uncharacteristic for a player of Taylor’s experience and pedigree. The Power will be determined to make amends this week against his old friend and rival, but he’ll have to contend with the partisan Scottish crowd.
Barney’s form over the weekend was very encouraging; he was regularly hitting 100+ averages, including a 109 average in a 6-1 demolition of Matt Padgett. If he can transfer that form to the Premier League stage, he will take some stopping. I think the first 4 or 5 legs are pivotal; if Barneveld can establish an early advantage, his confidence may grow. Van Barneveld beat Taylor in their last Premier League meeting, in last year’s semi-final at the O2. Interestingly, three of their last four group phase matches have resulted in draws. Let’s hope we witness another instalment of a classic rivalry tonight.
Prediction: van Barneveld 6-6 Taylor
Gary Anderson vs Kim Huybrechts
Gary Anderson returns to play in Glasgow for the first-time as a World Champion and he is certain to receive a hero’s welcome. Nevertheless, Kim Huybrechts will be determined to spoil the party. Huybrechts sits bottom of the table, but he has been unfortunate. He has produced some superb displays in recent weeks, averaging 107 in a 7-4 defeat to an inspired Dave Chisnall, before averaging 106 in a 7-5 win over van Barneveld. Huybrechts will have been disappointed to lose to Wright last week, but he is relishing the Premier League experience.
Anderson has returned to form in comprehensive fashion after experiencing a minor blip over recent weeks, where fragility on the doubles returned to hamper him, albeit temporarily. He was phenomenal in dispatching Lewis last week, while he recorded victory in the opening Players Championship event in Barnsley on Saturday, beating Wade 6-5 in the final. In his six games en route to the final, the Flying Scotsman dropped just 10 legs; demonstrating that he is throwing confidently and winning in comprehensive fashion.
Despite this, I don’t expect Anderson to record a routine victory here. Huybrechts has proven that he isn’t fazed by facing the top players and if he can replicate his recent league displays, Anderson will have to perform at his very best. While you may presume that Anderson will benefit from home advantage, he has openly admitted that he often struggles with the pressure of satisfying his expectant home crowd, so the Belgian may be able to capitalise on some nerves from the World Champion. Having said that, I think Anderson’s consistent and relentless scoring may give him the edge, presuming he is efficient on the doubles.
Prediction: Anderson 7-5 Huybrechts
Dave Chisnall vs Michael van Gerwen
The night culminates with a hotly anticipated match between the league’s top two, as Michael van Gerwen aims to preserve his unbeaten record against Dave Chisnall. Chisnall suffered his first defeat of the campaign to Stephen Bunting last week, enabling the Dutchman to snatch top spot.
Chisnall and MvG have participated in some classic battles over recent months, but their quarter-final at the Masters in February was absolutely scintillating. Even at this early stage of the year, that match must be a contender for televised game of the year. Chizzy recorded a 110 average and unleashed a relentless barrage of maximum hitting, but MvG scraped through in a deciding leg.
Both men throw at a rapid and fluent pace, which is why they always produce such classic contests. This is conducive to plenty of maximums and big combination finishes, and I sense that the contest could be decided on a moment of magic, rather than a moment of frailty. Chisnall will be eager to get back to winning ways and reclaim top spot in the table, although van Gerwen tends to edge the close matches between the two; often producing the goods in the pivotal moments. MvG is arguably playing the best darts of his career and I suspect that the 25-year-old will inflict Chizzy’s second successive league defeat.
Prediction: Chisnall 5-7 van Gerwen
Please let me know your thoughts about tonight’s action, by leaving any comments/predictions below. Thanks for reading!