Premier League Darts- Week 3 Preview

Anderson v Taylor.jpg
Photo: Lawrence Lustig/PDC

This week, the Premier League road-show heads to Dublin’s 3Arena, and there are some fantastic matches in store. The reigning world champion Gary Anderson takes on 16-time world champion Phil Taylor, whilst world number one Michael van Gerwen takes on current table-topper Adrian Lewis.

Elsewhere, eight-time major winner James Wade takes on world number five Peter Wright, World Grand-Prix champion Robert Thornton takes on five-time world champion Raymond van Barneveld, whilst Dave Chisnall and Michael Smith meet in an all-St Helen’s clash.

James Wade v Peter Wright

James Wade and Peter Wright have both enjoyed strong starts to their respective campaigns. The pair both sit on four points, although Wade has played a game more following his double-header in Newcastle to account for Thornton’s absence.

Wade appears very contented at present which is reflecting in his performances. He was typically efficient in edging out Michael Smith, whilst he had the misfortune of running into an inspired Taylor in his second match of the evening. However, James boasted an average of 102, so he won’t have been particularly disheartened by his 7-1 reverse.

Peter Wright is one of only two players to boast a 100% record in this year’s group-phase at present, although Snakebite was the benefactor of some extremely good fortune against Raymond van Barneveld last week. Wright averaged just 88 and was second best for the majority of the contest, but he capitalised on profligacy from RvB to snatch victory.

Despite this, Wright does deserve credit for the tenacity and determination he demonstrated to secure victory, despite playing well below his best. Both men are consistent scorers and reliable doublers, whilst both have also immeasurably improved their maximum count over recent months, particularly Wright.

As a result, this has all the makings of being an extremely tight tussle. Both players departed at the last 16 stage of last weekend’s Dutch Darts Masters, losing to inspired performances from Daryl Gurney and Benito van de Pas. Nevertheless, I expect both players to head into this battle with confidence.

Wright opted for new darts against Barney last week, but given his mediocre performance, he insisted that he would change ahead of next week, therefore I expect a marked improvement in his game. Wade’s extremely tough to beat, and if he can maintain his improved scoring power, his proficient doubling should see him get a positive result.

Prediction: Wade 6-6 Wright

Dave Chisnall v Michael Smith

This match already enters into the ‘must not lose’ category for Michael Smith, following his defeat to James Wade in Newcastle last week. Following his double-header defeat in Leeds, ‘Bully-Boy’ is yet to register a point after 3 games, and with van Gerwen, Taylor, Anderson and van Barneveld all to come, Smith simply can’t afford to lose this match.

Michael undoubtedly has the ability to defeat any player in the world, but it can be difficult to become accustomed to the unrelenting Premier League environment. Smith led James Wade 3-2 last week and was throwing superbly, before he missed eight darts at double for a 4-2 cushion. From this point onwards, the St Helen’s star capitulated.

Dave Chisnall also tasted defeat last week, after he was beaten 7-4 by Adrian Lewis. Missed doubles in the early stages of the contest proved costly for ‘Chizzy’, as Lewis stormed into a 6-1 advantage, but to his credit, Dave fought back to 6-4, before Adrian sealed victory with a fine 12-darter.

Both men were in action at last weekend’s Dutch Darts Masters in Venray. Chisnall was beaten in the quarter-finals by eventual champion Michael van Gerwen, whilst Michael Smith departed in a last-leg decider, losing 6-5 in the last 16 to the methodical Mensur Suljovic.

This could be the ideal tie for Smith. He and Chizzy are great friends both on and off the oche, therefore there should be no fear factor for the former World Youth Champion. Their last meeting came in November’s Grand Slam last 16 tie, which Smith prevailed 10-7 in a high-quality contest.

This should give Michael confidence heading into Dublin, but I think the opening 5-6 legs will ultimately decide the outcome. It’s absolutely imperative that Smith starts strongly,  because he may become dejected if he falls behind early, plus Chisnall is an imperious front-runner. Nevertheless, I believe that the battle of St Helen’s will end in a stalemate.

Prediction: Chisnall 6-6 Smith

Phil Taylor v Gary Anderson

This could be a thrilling contest. The reigning world champion and the current Premier League holder takes on a resurgent Phil Taylor, who averaged over 111 in dismantling James Wade last week.

Taylor suffered a 7-2 humbling at the hands of Raymond van Barneveld in the opening week, but he enjoyed an excellent weekend whilst competing in the opening set of UK Open qualifiers a fortnight ago, and he transferred that form to Newcastle’s Metro Radio Arena with an emphatic win over Wade.

Gary Anderson was ruled out of week one due to a viral infection, therefore he made his first appearance of the season last week against MvG. Anderson acquitted himself magnificently, averaging over 106 and hitting 75% of his doubles, but this wasn’t enough to dislodge ‘The Green Machine’ who triumphed 7-3.

Anderson is essentially playing catch up having only played once, and he’ll be eager to get his first points on the board in Dublin. However, Taylor looked so assured and composed against Wade; if ‘The Power’ replicates this type of display, ‘The Flying Scotsman’ will be in for an extremely tough assessment.

I felt that Taylor has tinkered too frequently with his darts over the last 18 months, but his current set-up appears ideal. His scoring has not dwindled over the last few years, but his doubling has been the major concern, particularly around the D8/D16 segments.

However, since changing his equipment, these doubles are going in with far greater conviction and regularity. Anderson defeated the 55-year-old twice in last year’s Premier League, but I get the impression Phil is far more confident in his darts at present, and I fancy him to defeat the world champion and secure back-to-back Premier League wins.

Prediction: Taylor 7-4 Anderson

Michael van Gerwen v Adrian Lewis

As a spectacle, this should be the stand-out match of the evening. Van Gerwen and Lewis are two of the most talented players to have ever thrown a dart, and their similarly quick-fire approach always makes for thrilling viewing.

Van Gerwen responded to his opening night defeat against James Wade in the only way Michael knows; he averaged 112 as he cruised past an impressive Gary Anderson last week, before winning the Dutch Darts Masters title for a third year in succession in Venray on Sunday, therefore MvG will enter Dublin full of confidence.

However, Adrian Lewis is arguably throwing the best darts of his career, which is some statement considering he’s a two-time world champion. Adrian has made a slight alteration to his darts following last month’s World Championships but this seem to have had a positive effect, as he sits top of the Premier League table with two wins.

Lewis has notoriously disappointed in previous Premier League campaigns, reaching the play-offs just twice in eight years, although he’s made a wonderful start in 2016, and he’ll approach his game against van Gerwen with a real sense of belief and optimism.

Adrian illustrated his confident mind-set when speaking with PDC.TV, insisting: “I can’t ask for any more with my form and that showed in patches last week. I’m feeling good and if somebody beats me then they’re going to have to play really well.”

However, Michael is certainly capable of doing just that. Van Gerwen has lost just 1 of his last 8 meetings against Lewis, winning the last four. Given his series of majestic performances in Venray last weekend, it’s virtually impossible to back against MvG, but if the Dutchman does waver, Lewis is certainly in the form to capitalise.

Prediction: Van Gerwen 7-5 Lewis

Robert Thornton v Raymond van Barneveld

After missing out on last week’s action due to illness, Thornton will make a welcome return to Dublin where he won the World Grand Prix crown last October.

Since his triumph on Irish soil, Thornton has really struggled for form, exiting in round-one of the European Championships, the Players Championship finals, the World Championships and Unibet Masters. ‘The Thorn’ also suffered a 7-0 drubbing at the hands of Dave Chisnall on the opening night.

In contrast, Raymond van Barneveld has performed tremendously well over recent months, reaching the Grand Slam and World Championship semi-finals, whilst also making a winning start to his 2016 Premier League campaign with a comprehensive 7-2 win against Phil Taylor.

Nevertheless, van Barneveld suffered a puzzling defeat to Peter Wright in Newcastle last week. Wright was the inferior player for much of the contest, but Barney struggled to capitalise on Snakebite’s deficiencies, and the Scot fought back from 5-4 down to snatch victory, so Raymond also has a point to prove in Dublin.

I think Thornton’s two-week hiatus will have done him the world of good, and I expect him to significantly improve on his performance in week one, where he averaged 75.68; the lowest average recorded in Premier League history. If Robert is at his best, he’s more than capable of defeating anybody in world darts, as epitomised by his Grand Prix success.

Thornton knows a victory will kick-start his campaign,but by the same token, defeat puts him in a precarious position, even at this early stage. Barney will have been bitterly disappointed with losing last week, although he is without doubt the form man out of the two at present, and I’m backing Barney to notch up his second league win on Thursday!

Prediction: Thornton 4-7  Van Barneveld

Betway Premier League
Night Three – February 18
3Arena, Dublin

Peter Wright v James Wade
Dave Chisnall v Michael Smith
Phil Taylor v Gary Anderson
Michael van Gerwen v Adrian Lewis
Robert Thornton v Raymond van Barneveld

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