We reach the halfway mark in the first phase of the Premier League Darts season on Thursday night when the eight players head to Birmingham for Night Eight of the competition, one which could separate the top from the bottom in the overall table.
That is because this is one of the two weeks where the fixtures were not pre-determined but instead come in league table order with 1v8, 2v7 3v6 and 4v5 so those who have the throw on Thursday evening have the chance to distance themselves from the rest.
Michael van Gerwen vs James Wade
The opening match of the night sees the table topping Michael van Gerwen taking on the man who dropped to the foot of proceedings last week in the form of James Wade, in a match which you would have to say is bigger for the Englishman than the Dutchman.
I always think that Wade is someone who raises his game against van Gerwen but there is no disputing the fact that he is going to have to now that MVG has become a winning machine again. He hasn’t been completely infallible in the Premier League this season but it has taken an inspired performance to beat him in the main. Wade coughed up a winning position when I backed him last week which puts me off doing it again but the odds on MVG are understandably a little skinny so I am happy to leave this one alone.
Joe Cullen vs Gerwyn Price
The second quarter final sees the player who shot up to fourth in the table with his win in Rotterdam last week in Joe Cullen going up against the player one place below him in the standings in the form of Gerwyn Price.
These two were meant to meet earlier in the competition but Price pulled out with his hand injury. He has revealed this week that he has a fractured bone in that hand but he is going to press on with his participation in the event which is good for the competition but it doesn’t make betting on his matches particularly easy because his consistency is likely to be up and down. Cullen won last week but you’d be hard pushed to say he played well in the night. Gary Anderson butchered the chance to beat him and he kept on living a charmed life from there. I’d expect Price to win this but I can’t be backing an injured man at odds on.
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Peter Wright vs Gary Anderson
The third quarter final of the night sees the two Scottish stars going at it once again when the second placed Peter Wright takes on a Gary Anderson who dropped to second from bottom last week after coughing up a golden chance to pick up points.
Anderson was pretty grouchy at the end of that match and understandably so. He’ll know he should never have lost to Cullen not just from 5-3 up but because he effectively stole the darts in the penultimate leg and had them in the last leg and butchered both opportunities. Wright didn’t play particularly well last week either but James Wade missed a dart at tops to beat him in the quarter final before Cullen put him out of his misery in a very poor quality match. There is just too many question marks over these two men at the minute to be getting involved in this one.
Jonny Clayton vs Michael Smith
The last of the quarter finals should be a cracking contest between two men who seem to always deliver great matches when they play each other. It sees Jonny Clayton going up against Michael Smith with the winner surely sensing a big chance to win the evening.
Smith will arrive in Birmingham as the only player other than James Wade yet to win a night of the Premier League this season but he has made two finals in the last three weeks and he would have dumped van Gerwen out in the first stage in front of his own fans last week if the crowd hadn’t played up so he is clearly in decent form right now, in stark contrast to his form at the beginning of the season when he understandably needed a few weeks to get over the disappointment of losing in the World Championship final. Clayton came firing out of the blocks in the Premier League this term, winning the second night of the competition, but that was the last time he made a final and his overall form has dropped off in the last month. Smith walloped Clayton in Brighton three weeks ago and he has beaten him on the floor since then. I think he completes a hat trick of March wins over the Welsh ace here.
Back M.Smith to beat J.Clayton for a 3/10 stake at 2.15 with Coral
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