With just four weeks remaining until finals night at the O2 Arena, we really are at the ‘business end ‘ of the Premier League season. Michael van Gerwen is assured of a finals spot, whilst Dave Chisnall is also virtually a certainty. Gary Anderson faces an extremely significant night in Cardiff, as he plays both Stephen Bunting and Michael van Gerwen. Two wins will guarantee the World Champion a play-off spot, but two defeats could put his hopes of another Premier League title in serious jeopardy.
Phil Taylor and Adrian Lewis face off in a clash that will have major repercussions for their respective top 4 challenges, whilst Raymond van Barneveld attempts to continue his fantastic form as he faces Dave Chisnall. Michael van Gerwen also doubles up in the Welsh Isles, as he takes on James Wade and Gary Anderson. The Green Machine will be determined to return to winning ways after he suffered his first defeat of the season at the hands of his compatriot van Barneveld.
Stephen Bunting v Gary Anderson
Gary Anderson enjoyed a great night in Aberdeen last week. He trailed an inspired James Wade 6-2 at one stage but he fought back superbly, thanks to a tremendous burst of scoring, to claim a 6-6 draw. Stephen Bunting enjoyed a mixed night in the Granite City; he suffered a disappointing 7-2 defeat to Adrian Lewis, with missed doubles proving costly. However, he redeemed himself in the final match of the night, snatching a 6-6 draw with Phil Taylor, despite trailing 5-2 at one stage.
Bunting was far from his best in either match, but his resilience is impressive. Perhaps he’s a victim of his first year’s success in the PDC; he has set extremely high standards in terms of performances and results, but it’s his debut campaign and he’s acquitted himself well. His doubles have been an issue throughout the event, but against Taylor he was much more clinical, hitting a fantastic 132 checkout to force himself back into the contest.
Despite last week’s late heroics, Anderson is without a win in three matches and with van Gerwen to face later in the evening, the Scot will be desperate to secure victory against the Bullet. Phil Taylor, Adrian Lewis and Raymond van Barneveld are all displaying great form; therefore the Scot will be keen to avoid being dragged into a top 4 scrap.
Anderson won their corresponding fixture 7-4 in Dublin in Week 8. Bunting started strongly and established a 4-2 lead, but Anderson launched an excellent comeback, reeling off 5 successive legs to secure the win. Bunting is a tenacious character and as his play-off hopes look increasingly improbable, it may work in his advantage; he’ll be able to play with freedom. Anderson holds the advantage in the scoring stakes, if he’s clinical on his doubles, he will expect to win.
Prediction: Bunting 6-6 Anderson
James Wade vs Michael van Gerwen
James Wade deserves immense credit for his performance against Gary Anderson last week. After the miserable time he endured in Sheffield, it took major character to respond in such confident fashion. After leading 6-2, he will inevitably be disappointed at his failure to close out victory, but the best facets of his game were functioning well against the Scot. He punished Anderson for every mistake and the 170 finish was class. Wadey averaged 101 and maintained this standard throughout.
Michael van Gerwen is almost in unknown territory, coming off the back of defeat against Raymond van Barneveld last week. MvG started slowly and although he improved considerably as the contest progressed, van Barneveld was superb in the second half of the match. Van Gerwen averaged 99.25 so was certainly not mediocre, but his finishing was; he hit just 3/14 on the doubles. That killer instinct he’s displayed throughout the campaign was missing in Aberdeen, but I expect a comprehensive response from the Green Machine in Cardiff.
Wade desperately needs a result to maintain his play-off hopes; he certainly has the pedigree and quality, but I fear his disastrous night in Sheffield may ultimately cost him in the end. It’s worth remembering that Wade has played more than both Lewis and van Barneveld and still has extremely tough fixtures ahead, but it would be foolish to write him off completely. Van Gerwen must improve his finishing to bounce back from last week’s disappointment, which I expect him to do.
Prediction: Wade 5-7 van Gerwen
Raymond van Barneveld vs Dave Chisnall
Just one month ago, Raymond van Barneveld was facing the prospect of relegation, needing a point against Gary Anderson to survive the drop. However, it’s been a phenomenal turn-around for the Dutchman, who has recorded back-to-back victories over Taylor and van Gerwen to reignite his play-off push. He still has a lot of work to do, but it’s in his own hands, which seemed very unlikely one month ago. RvB started slowly against van Gerwen last week, but he wasn’t perturbed and took his chances when they were presented. However, in the final four legs, van Barneveld recorded legs of 11, 14, 15 and 11 darts, to overwhelm the World No 1 and secure a brilliant victory.
Dave Chisnall was beaten 7-3 by Phil Taylor last week, but Chizzy did very little wrong. He had one poor leg on throw, the third leg, which was subsequently punished by the Power. Taylor was dominant on throw and never relented, despite Chisnall hitting finishes of 128 and 140 in the early stages. The St Helen’s ace averaged 102, but Taylor was extremely focused and capitalised on every opportunity. I expect this to be a great battle; Chisnall is virtually guaranteed a play-off spot, but one more win will mathematically secure it.
Chizzy won the pair’s initial meeting back in week 2 in Bournemouth. It was a relatively mediocre contest; van Barneveld looked in control at 5-4 up with a break of throw, but both players missed countless doubles in the closing stages, yet it was Chisnall who snatched a rather fortuitous 7-5 win. The Dutchman’s performances have certainly improved since then, but so have Chisnall’s. He deserves great credit for a magnificent campaign and can no longer be considered an underdog. Having said that, I fancy van Barneveld to nick this, because his two wins over Taylor and his victory over MvG have reignited his belief and injected the swagger back into his game. Chisnall however, is a force to be reckoned with and if the Dutchman is slightly off-colour, he will be punished.
Prediction: van Barneveld 7-5 Chisnall
Phil Taylor vs Adrian Lewis
Phil Taylor had a profitable week in Aberdeen, picking up 3pts from his double header against Chisnall and Bunting, but he must have departed with some regrets, having squandered ten match darts in the final leg. He has played a game more than Lewis and van Barneveld and defeat to his fellow Stoke-rival will plunge his play-off hopes into serious trouble.
Adrian Lewis has notoriously struggled to perform in the Premier League format, having reached the play-offs just twice in nine attempts. However, like van Barneveld, his fortunes have improved considerably. Three successive wins for Jackpot have put him level on points with Taylor and victory over his former mentor in Cardiff will put him in the ascendancy for a spot at the O2 Arena.
Lewis’s floor form has been sensational this year; he has already won three tour events and has consistently reached the quarter-final stage or beyond of virtually every event, which is testament to his quality. Despite winning against Wade and Bunting in the last fortnight, Jackpot has not been at his explosive best, but he’s been professional and efficient. However, you would assume he will have to go through the gears to dislodge Taylor.
The Power was fantastic against Chisnall and inexplicably ran out of steam against Bunting, but he’ll be extremely focused for this encounter. It’s all about Taylor’s first dart; against Chizzy his first dart was positioned perfectly at the bottom of the T20 bed; if history repeats itself in Cardiff, it may be ominous for the Two-Time World Champion.
Prediction: Taylor 7-4 Lewis
Gary Anderson vs Michael van Gerwen
Depending on how he fares against Bunting, this could be a decisive match in Anderson’s Premier League season. The chasing pack is constantly gaining ground, but victories in Cardiff will dispel any lingering doubts about his qualification for the O2. Their previous encounter in this year’s competition was a slightly scrappy affair. Anderson scored extremely well, better than van Gerwen, but his doubling was extremely poor; he recorded a miserly 15% checkout rate, allowing van Gerwen to claim a 7-4 win.
If Anderson beats Bunting the pressure will be released and it could be a cracker. There’s a healthy rivalry between the pair that has emerged over the last 18 months. Anderson felt he had a point to prove after his World Championship last 16 defeat in 2014, which he did by beating van Gerwen in this year’s World Championship semi-finals.
Although van Gerwen has already sealed his play-off spot, there will be no danger of complacency; he just loves winning and he’ll be smarting from defeat against van Barneveld in Aberdeen. However, when Anderson hits his doubles with regularity, he is so difficult to beat, exemplified by his late-surge against Wade last week. Van Gerwen understandably frightens opponents with his scoring power; not Anderson though!
Prediction: Anderson 6-6 van Gerwen