Premier League Darts- Week 8 Preview!

Photo: Lawrence Lustig/PDC

Robert Thornton faces a make or break night at the Echo Arena on Thursday night, as the Scot fights to preserve his Premier League status in Week Eight of the Betway Premier League in Liverpool.

The World Grand-Prix champion has just a solitary point from his six games thus far and he faces a double-header against Michael Smith and Michael van Gerwen respectively on Merseyside. Defeats in both games would confirm Thornton’s relegation, so the stakes could not be higher.

Gary Anderson faces Dave Chisnall in a repeat of last year’s semi-final, but Chizzy is in serious relegation trouble having secured just one draw from his last six fixtures. Elsewhere, Phil Taylor faces Peter Wright, whilst two world champions collide, as Adrian Lewis takes on Raymond van Barneveld.

Michael Smith v Robert Thornton

Michael Smith appeared dead and buried after week four of the Premier League. He had accumulated just one point from his opening five matches and seemed a relegation certainty, but victory over Raymond van Barneveld three weeks ago has given him renewed hope.

Smith still occupies one of the relegation spots, but he is level on points with his St Helen’s counterpart Dave Chisnall, who has to play Gary Anderson and Peter Wright before the elimination cut-off. Therefore one victory could potentially be enough for ‘Bully-Boy’ to beat the drop.

In terms of tournament averages, both men are significantly behind their competitors. Smith’s overall overage is 90.76, whilst Thornton’s is a meagre 86.35. However, Robert did produce his best performance of the competition thus far a week ago, averaging 101 in a 7-4 defeat to James Wade.

Thornton will be hopeful of clinching his first victory of the season if he can replicate last week’s display, especially given Smith’s double-trouble. Michael’s checkout percentage of 35.82% is the lowest out of all ten players, and it remains to be see how match-sharp the 25-year-old will be after not playing in Glasgow last week.

Prediction: Smith 5-7 Thornton

Gary Anderson v Dave Chisnall

These are two players going in very opposite directions at present. Since losing his opening two matches against Michael van Gerwen and Phil Taylor, Anderson has secured five successive victories and currently sits in third position. In stark contrast, Chisnall is without a win since the opening week and he sits perilously close to the drop zone.

‘The Flying Scotsman’ performed superbly in front of his home crowd in Glasgow last week. He averaged a shade under 100 in dispatching Adrian Lewis, before producing a fine mini-comeback to defeat his compatriot Peter Wright. Gary’s finishing against Snakebite was magnificent and he’ll be hoping to be equally clinical in Liverpool.

Dave Chisnall ran into an inspired Raymond van Barneveld last week, and that’s after he was dismantled by Michael van Gerwen, who averaged 111 against him a fortnight ago. However, some of Chizzy’s problems are self-inflicted. Whilst he is a prolific maximum hitter, his scoring is plagued with inconsistency at this moment in time.

Chisnall’s snatch is one of his glaring weaknesses and it’s become increasingly evident in recent weeks, particularly in the decisive stages of matches. He’s under real pressure to get a result against the world champion, particularly if Michael Smith gets a result against Thornton in the evening’s opener.

By comparison, Anderson is throwing with authority and confidence, and the defending Premier League champion is looking up, rather than down. Chisnall won both group-phase meetings between the pair in last year’s tournament, although I fancy the Scot to claim the spoils on this occasion.

Prediction: Anderson 7-4 Chisnall

Adrian Lewis v Raymond van Barneveld

This has all the prospects of being the stand-out match of the evening. Adrian Lewis has enjoyed a relatively strong campaign up until now, whilst Raymond van Barneveld made a huge step towards assuring his Premier League status with a superb victory over Dave Chisnall in front of his adoring Scottish fans last week.

Van Barneveld could potentially be mathematically safe by time he takes to the oche against Jackpot, although Barney’s focus will squarely be on closing in on the play-off places. Raymond took out finishes of 121, 152 and 161 against Chizzy last week, and against a player of Lewis’s scoring power, he may need to reproduce these types of big finishes.

Adrian suffered a disappointing 7-4 defeat to Gary Anderson last week, although in truth Anderson was the dominant force throughout the contest. If it wasn’t for the Scot missing a series of doubles in the early stages, the scoreline may have been more comprehensive.

Both of these world champions have mercurial tendencies so it’s extremely hard to pick a winner. Lewis was scintillating against Peter Wright last week, but he hasn’t been able to produce a sequence of high-quality consistent displays thus far.

Van Barneveld has been throwing extremely well throughout this year’s event, although he appeared to be coming up short in the latter stages of matches. However I think the five-time world champion turned a corner in this regard last week, and I’m backing Barney to secure his second straight league win.

Prediction: Lewis 5-7 Van Barneveld

Phil Taylor v Peter Wright

Phil Taylor was in bullish mood after coming back from 5-1 down to snatch a point against Michael van Gerwen in Glasgow last week. Taylor insisted that he has ‘the measure of MvG’ and claimed that whoever he was playing next week- psychologically he’d be facing ‘The Green Machine’.

However Taylor must focus on the job in hand, because in Peter Wright he faces one of the best and most consistent players on the planet. Having said that, Snakebite has suffered a disappointing run of results after losing three successive matches; he’s also without a win in four.

Nevertheless, this isn’t a reflection on Wright’s performances. He averaged 108 and 107 respectively in losing to Michael van Gerwen and Adrian Lewis, whilst he suffered an agonising 7-5 defeat to Gary Anderson in Glasgow last week, missing three clear darts to secure a point.

Wright started his debut Premier League campaign in 2014 very strongly, before fading away midway through the event. He’ll be desperate to avoid a repeat scenario this year, therefore this game against Taylor is hugely significant for the Scot.

Since losing to his old adversary Raymond van Barneveld in week one, ‘The Power’ reeled off five consecutive wins, before sharing the spoils with van Gerwen seven days ago. His tournament average of over 104 reflects his fine form, and buoyed by his stirring fightback against MvG a week ago, I fancy Taylor to edge a high-quality encounter here.

Prediction: Taylor 7-4 Wright

Michael van Gerwen v Robert Thornton

Irrespective of the outcome from the night’s opener, Michael van Gerwen will enter this contest as overwhelming favourite. However, if Thornton can muster up his first league win against ‘Bully-Boy’, he will approach this clash with renewed vigour and could represent a far tougher proposition for the world number one.

Despite this, you couldn’t wish for a worse time to play Van Gerwen. The Dutchman is in scintillating form and has a remarkable tournament average in excess of 110, but he’ll be smarting after surrendering such a commanding lead against Taylor last week, and I expect him to raise his level even further.

Thornton memorably defeated Van Gerwen to clinch the World Grand-Prix title in October so the 48-year-old is most certainly capable of causing an upset. Yet since then, Thornton’s form has deteriorated, whilst MvG has enjoyed an astounding up-turn in performances.

The Scot’s finishing was critical to his Grand-Prix triumph last year, although he was afforded opportunities due to the double-start format. He doesn’t have that luxury this time around, so Thornton has to improve his scoring considerably to compete with Michael, which is a rather uncompromising task.

Prediction: Van Gerwen 7-3 Thornton

Betway Premier League
Night Eight – March 24
Echo Arena, Liverpool

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

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