This Thursday night, the longest and one of the most coveted darts tournaments of the year comes to a close at the 02 Arena in London as four of the top players in the PDC will battle it out across two semifinals, followed by the best of 21-leg final, to decide who is the PDC Premier League Darts Champion of 2019.
Since early February, nine players, plus a number of Wild Card players in the first nine weeks of action, have been competing in a series of venues across Germany, the Netherlands, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and England in order to decide who makes it past Judgement Night first of all, and then who makes it through the remaining eight players into the Playoffs.
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Let’s now take a look ahead to the big night ahead with a quick review of how we whittled down the nine players that started the Premier League this year, to the four that remain to battle it out at the 02 Arena on Thursday Night.
PDC Premier League Season Review
There was an issue before the Premier League season began in earnest when one of the original ten players in the line up, two-time winner of the tournament Gary Anderson, had to pull out due to back problems. At such short notice, it was impossible for any one player to step in the Scot’s shoes, so the PDC decided that nine players would compete each week in the opening phase of the tournament, and on each week one PDC player would be invited as a wild-card entry to fulfil Anderson’s fixtures, though they would not be entered into the tournament, but simply playing for a cash prize against the other player.
Although not universally liked by darts fans the decision has allowed the likes of John Henderson, Nathan Aspinall, Dmitri van de Bergh and Glen Durrant the chance to experience the Premier League atmosphere and these players, and the others that played over the opening phase of the tournament, certainly helped it be a success.
Phase 1 was a tough one for Raymond van Barneveld who only won one of his nine games, drawing two others before he was eliminated from the tournament on Judgement Night. Barney did actually retire on the spot in the emotion of his defeat in Rotterdam but 24-hours later, he rescinded that decision and elected to play on for the remainder of his final season as a professional.
Rob Cross, Michael van Gerwen and James Wade were the standout performers in the opening phase and all three produced some solid performances in Phase 2 of the event and each deservedly earned a spot in the Playoffs following the penultimate weekend of games. That left just one place open heading into the final week of the regular league section and there were three players, Daryl Gurney, Gerwyn Price and Mensur Suljovic in with a chance of clinching that last playoff spot.
In the end, it was Gurney who produced the goods, beating Michael Smith to clinch the fourth spot in the table, pipping Price by one point who then finished one point ahead of Suljovic who was beaten on the night by Michael van Gerwen. That win confirmed van Gerwen as the league winner ahead of Rob Cross, who lost 8-6 to James Wade, and ensured the Dutchman picked up the bonus of £25,000 for winning the league section of the tournament.
In the playoffs, top seed van Gerwen will face Daryl Gurney, while James Wade and Rob Cross will meet once again just a week after Wade beat Cross in the final match of the league season.
Premier League Darts Playoff – Semifinals Preview and Tips
Michael van Gerwen v Daryl Gurney
Michael van Gerwen has an incredible record in this tournament. He has entered six times, he has won the trophy four times, including all of the last three years and in each year he has played, he has always reached the final. As such, Daryl Gurney knows that he would be the first man ever to beat van Gerwen in a semifinal but the Dutch World Number 1 is still a massive odds on favourite to win the game.
I think that is a little harsh on Gurney as the Irishman has played van Gerwen twice this year in the Premier League and has beaten him on both occasions. That is something that will definitely be on van Gerwen’s mind in this game and it will give Gurney a bit of confidence, allied to his big improvement in form over the last few weeks of the season.
The format for the semifinal is best of 19 and that longer game perhaps just plays into van Gerwen’s hands slightly more, but not enough for me to rule him a certainty to win. Indeed, if Gurney gets off to a fast start as he has done in the previous two games, van Gerwen could be in trouble.
As longer odds as he is, I am still going to back a big upset here and take Daryl Gurney to win the match at 7/2.
Rob Cross v James Wade
These two players have beaten each other in the Premier League this season, Cross winning the first encounter before Wade gaining revenge last week in Leeds. Both have had similar form in the tournament with Cross perhaps just the more consistent over the 15 weeks, but I think Wade has been slightly the better of the two over the last six weeks or so. In short, there is very little between these two players and this should be a cracking semifinal.
Wade will have confidence following his win last week but Cross, when he gets going, is capable of some big scores and big finishes. Wade’s consistency though means he is never really out of a match and I think that could have an impact. Add to this that Wade has actually won this trophy and his added experience here could be vital.
I can see this one going down to the final leg to decide the winner and as such, I think Wade’s greater experience and consistency could be key. I’m backing Wade, another outside bet, to win this one at 13/10.
Furthermore, if Wade does reach the final, he would be my tip to land his second Premier League darts title of his career.