2017 Premier League Darts: Week One Preview!

pl-darts-2017

The 2017 Premier League kicks off at Newcastle’s Metro Radio Arena on Thursday night, as Michael van Gerwen begins the defence of his title against two-time winner Gary Anderson, in a repeat of last month’s thrilling World Championship Final. Josh’s Dartistry talks you through the opening set of fixtures and provides his predictions…

Kim Huybrechts v James Wade

The 2017 Premier League kicks off with a clash between Kim Huybrechts and James Wade, in what promises to be a very evenly matched contest. Huybrechts suffered elimination on his Premier League debut back in 2015, however the Belgian performed far better than his results and league position may have suggested.

Huybrechts’ inclusion was slightly controversial this year, but he’ll be hoping to silence the critics with an opening night victory. Wade is one of the most consistent players in world darts, but he hasn’t reached the play-offs since 2013, therefore he’ll have to find extra gears within his game to challenge for this year’s title.

Both players come into this match on the back of opening-round defeats at the Masters. Wade was edged out by Robert Thornton, whilst Huybrechts was beaten by an impressive Adrian Lewis. They will each be keen to return to winning ways, which makes the opening few legs even more pivotal.

The eight-time major winner has dominated the pair’s previous meetings, winning 12 of their 16 matches, and all three of their televised tussles. Whilst Wade is one of the most proficient finishers in the game, he doesn’t possess the lethal scoring power of his fellow Premier League stars. Huybrechts will get chances; it’s just whether he takes them.

Prediction: Huybrechts 6-6 Wade

Raymond van Barneveld v Adrian Lewis

Raymond van Barneveld will begin his bid for a second Premier League crown against two-time world champion Adrian Lewis. The pair met in the last 16 of the recent World Championships, with Van Barneveld prevailing 4-3. The Dutch legend has won six of their last seven meetings, although the mercurial nature of Lewis cannot be underestimated.

Van Barneveld is playing his most consistent darts for a number of years. The five-time world champion has reached the quarter-finals or better in his last five TV ranking majors, including the semi-finals of the World Grand Prix and World Championship. The only players to beat him in those five events were Michael van Gerwen and Gary Anderson.

Adrian Lewis had a disappointing 2016 by his high standards, but he performed impressively at the Masters last weekend, reaching the semi-finals before losing to Van Gerwen. ‘Jackpot’ has claimed that he’s in a better place mentally heading into 2017 and given his incredible raw talent, that makes him a serious danger.

This contest is a very difficult one to call because either player is capable of blowing each other away if they perform at their very best. However, I have to opt for Van Barneveld based on current form. The Dutchman is in excellent shape mentally and I think his consistency could be the decisive factor on Thursday.

Prediction: Van Barneveld 7-4 Lewis

Phil Taylor v Dave Chisnall

Phil Taylor has lifted the Premier League title on six separate occasions, and he’ll kick off his campaign with a tasty showdown against his Target stablemate Dave Chisnall. ‘The Power’ has revealed that 2017 will be his last year on the professional circuit and he’ll be desperate to add at least one more major crown to his astonishing collection.

Taylor had a mixed year in 2016. He lost out to Michael van Gerwen in the final of both the Premier League and World Matchplay, before exacting his revenge by beating MvG to win the inaugural Champions League in September. Yet since then, he’s failed to go beyond the quarter-finals of any major TV ranking tournament.

Dave Chisnall enjoyed a strong end to 2016, losing out to Van Gerwen in the final of the Players Championship Finals, before suffering a quarter-final exit at the World Championship against an inspired Gary Anderson in an Ally Pally classic. Nevertheless, the recurring weakness in Chisnall’s game remains his inconsistent finishing.

‘Chizzy’ is the biggest maximum hitter in world darts, but any profligacy on the doubles will be ruthlessly punished against this class of opposition, which was evidenced last year when he was relegated alongside his St Helen’s compatriot Michael Smith. Taylor has won four of their last five meetings, and I see that trend continuing tomorrow night.

Prediction: Taylor 7-5 Chisnall

Michael van Gerwen v Gary Anderson

This has all the makings of being an absolute epic. Michael van Gerwen v Gary Anderson is without question the biggest rivalry in darts at present. They’re comfortably the top two players in the world, and they have already contested two TV major finals in 2017 alone. Yet the question is, can anybody stop the irrepressible ‘Green Machine’?

Van Gerwen’s dominance in 2016 was staggering. He won an unprecedented 26 individual titles and rounded-off an incredible year by winning his second world title. Yet the most alarming feature of his world title triumph was the manner in which he comprehensively overcame inspired opponents.

Cristo Reyes produced the game of his life against MvG but it wasn’t enough, before the world number one faced Van Barneveld and Anderson in his final two matches. Barney & Anderson are the two players most capable of raising their game against MvG and they performed magnificently; particularly RvB. Yet Michael still prevailed emphatically.

However, if anybody can stop him it’s Anderson, as the Scot always relishes the prospect of a tussle against MvG. You’d be forgiven for thinking Van Gerwen is vulnerable over a shorter format but the stats suggest otherwise; after losing to James Wade on the opening night twelve months ago, he went unbeaten for the remainder of the league phase.

Anderson has averaged over 102 in his last nine consecutive TV matches which is exceptional, but he may have to produce something extraordinary to halt MvG’s incredible 32-match winning streak. Van Gerwen has won their last four meetings, and you would be a brave man to bet against him making it five on Thursday evening.

Prediction: Van Gerwen 7-4 Anderson

Peter Wright v Jelle Klaasen

Peter Wright and Jelle Klaasen will bring down the curtain on the opening night in Newcastle. Klaasen is making his long-awaited Premier League return since his debut in 2008, whilst Wright; appearing in his fourth successive Premier League campaign, will be looking to make the play-offs for the very first time.

Wright is still searching for an elusive major title, but if he continues to perform as he has done over the last two years, it’s surely a case of when, not if. ‘Snakebite’ has deservedly climbed up to third on the PDC Order of Merit and appeared in two major finals last year, succumbing on both occasions to MvG.

However, we’ve yet to see the best of Wright in the Premier League, and that’s largely due to his constant tinkering with equipment. The Scot has changed his darts week-by-week in previous campaigns and that obviously has a detrimental effect on his consistency. If he can stick with one set-up, he has a fantastic chance of reaching the play-offs.

Klaasen made his Premier League bow in 2008 and struggled to adapt, but he’s matured significantly since then. Despite this, Jelle still lacks the consistency possessed by other top players, so it’s essential that when he’s really on-song, he takes full advantage. I think Wright’s more solid all-round game will pay dividends on this occasion.

Prediction: Wright 7-5 Klaasen

Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC

2017 Betway Premier League
Night One – Thursday February 2
Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle
Kim Huybrechts v James Wade
Raymond van Barneveld v Adrian Lewis
Phil Taylor v Dave Chisnall
Gary Anderson v Michael van Gerwen
Peter Wright v Jelle Klaasen

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: