On Thursday 1st February, starting in Dublin, the 2018 PDC Premier League Darts tournament will get underway. The first week of a total of 16 will pit ten of the best PDC players against each other over nine initial weeks of competition.
On that ninth week of games, it is the famous Judgement Night, when the bottom two players in the table will be eliminated from the competition, with the remaining eight players going on to then face each other once again over the next six weeks of action.
After those second set of fixtures have been completed, the top four in the table will then go forward to the 16th and final week of action in the Playoffs, where there will be two semi-finals and then a final to decide who will win the 2018 Premier League Darts crown.
The 2018 Premier League Darts line-up
This year is an interesting year for the Premier League as it will be the first competition without Phil Taylor in attendance following his retirement at the end of the World Championships at the start of the year. Also missing will be other Premier League veterans including Adrian Lewis, James Wade and Dave Chisnall as this year’s tournament introduces an unprecedented four new faces into the mix.
The top four players in the world rankings after the World Championship qualified for the Premier League automatically, with another six players granted Wildcard entries thanks to a PDC committee who selected them based on their performances throughout 2017.
The players involved this year are:
- Seeded – Michael van Gerwen (1), Peter Wright (2), Rob Cross (3), Gary Anderson (4)
- Wildcards – Mensur Suljovic, Gerwyn Price, Michael Smith, Daryl Gurney, Simon Whitlock and Raymond van Barneveld
Of that list of players, Rob Cross, Mensur Sulkovic, Gerwyn Price and Daryl Gurney are making their first ever appearance in the event, while Simon Whitlock is returning after a four-year absence, and Michael Smith is back after missing out in 2017, following his debut in 2016.
The bookmakers have already marked out the odds for the event winner outright and Coral have them priced at the following:
- Michael Van Gerwen 8/11 favourite
- Rob Cross 7/2
- Gary Anderson 11/2
- Peter Wright 8/1
- Daryl Gurney & Raymond Van Barneveld 40/1
- Michael Smith & Mensur Suljovic 50/1
- Gerwyn Price 100/1
- Simon Whitlock 200/1
Given he won the Unibet Masters last weekend against Raymond van Barneveld in the final, it is hard to back against Van Gerwen for what would be his fourth Premier League title and his third in a row. However, new World Champion Rob Cross should be a real challenger while the likes of Gary Anderson, Raymond van Barneveld and Peter Wright can cause real problems for any player participating.
My tip here would be Van Gerwen to make it three-in-a-row, but I think a better option may be an each-way punt on the in-form Raymond Van Barneveld to make it to the final. He hasn’t performed at his best in this tournament in recent years, but he has won it once before and with Wright and Anderson both suffering with health issues, plus Rob Cross a debutant, Barney may well be Van Gerwen’s biggest rival.
Premier League Darts Weekly Schedule
In addition, this year also sees the Premier League Darts expand its countries competed in once again. Just a couple of years after the Netherlands was added to the roster, the players will visit Germany for one week to compete at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin in what promises to be a real treat for the growing fan-base of German darts fans.
The full schedule for each of the 16 nights of action is outlined below:
- Night One – 1st February – 3Arena, Dublin
- Night Two – 8th February – Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff
- Night Three – 15th February – Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle-upon-Tyne
- Night Four – 22nd February – Mercedes Benz Arena, Berlin
- Night Five – 1st March – Westpoint Arena, Exeter
- Night Six – 8th March – First Direct Arena, Leeds
- Night Seven – 15th March – Motorpoint Arena, Nottingham
- Night Eight – 22nd March – SSE Hydro, Glasgow
- Night Nine – 29th March – SSE Arena, Belfast – Judgement Night
- Night Ten – 5th April – Echo Arena, Liverpool
- Night Eleven – 12th April – FlyDSA Arena, Sheffield
- Night Twelve – 19th April – Ahoy Arena, Rotterdam
- Night Thirteen – 27th April – Manchester Arena, Manchester
- Night Fourteen – 3rd May – Arena, Birmingham
- Night Fifteen – 10th May – BHGE Arena, Aberdeen
- Night Sixteen – 17th May – The 02, London – Playoffs
Fixtures for Night One to Night Nine
The full set of fixtures for the first nine night’s of action have been finalised and are outlined below:
- Night One – Dublin
Mensur Suljovic v Simon Whitlock
Gary Anderson v Michael Smith
Daryl Gurney v Raymond van Barneveld
Michael van Gerwen v Rob Cross
Peter Wright v Gerwyn Price
- Night Two – Cardiff
Michael Smith v Daryl Gurney
Rob Cross v Simon Whitlock
Michael van Gerwen v Peter Wright
Gerwyn Price v Gary Anderson
Raymond van Barneveld v Mensur Suljovic
- Night Three – Newcastle
Mensur Sulkovic v Michael Smith
Daryl Gurney v Gerwyn Price
Peter Wright v Rob Cross
Gary Anderson v Michael van Gerwen
Simon Whitlock v Raymond van Barneveld
- Night Four – Berlin
Michael Smith v Simon Whitlock
Gerwyn Price v Mensur Suljovic
Michael van Gerwen v Daryl Gurney
Rob Cross v Raymond van Barneveld
Peter Wright v Gary Anderson
- Night Five – Exeter
Gary Anderson v Rob Cross
Daryl Gurney v Peter Wright
Mensur Suljovic v Michael van Gerwen
Raymond van Barneveld v Michael Smith
Simon Whitlock v Gerwyn Price
- Night Six -Leeds
Michael van Gerwen v Simon Whitlock
Gerwyn Price v Raymond van Barneveld
Peter Wright v Mensur Sulljovic
Gary Anderson v Daryl Gurney
Rob Cross v Michael Smith
- Night Seven – Nottingham
Michael Smith v Peter Wright
Simon Whitlock v Daryl Gurney
Mensur Suljovic v Rob Cross
Gerwyn Price v Michael van Gerwen
Raymond van Barneveld v Gary Anderson
- Night Eight – Glasgow
Daryl Gurney v Mensur Suljovic
Michael van Gerwen v Michael Smith
Gary Anderson v Simon Whitlock
Peter Wright v Raymond van Barneveld
Rob Cross v Gerwyn Price
- Night Nine – Belfast – Judgement Night
Mensur Suljovic v Gary Anderson
Michael Smith v Gerwyn Price
Raymond van Barneveld v Michael van Gerwen
Daryl Gurney v Rob Cross
Simon Whitlock v Peter Wright
After Night Nine, two players will be eliminated and the fixtures for Nights 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15 will be decided following the completion of matches in Belfast on Judgement Night.
What is interesting from this fixture list is that Raymond van Barneveld has a tough run in facing the three of the top four in the world over the last three weeks of action (Anderson, Wright and Van Gerwen) so the likeable Dutchman is going to have to start this tournament strongly if he is to make it through Judgement Night, something that he has not done so at times in the past.
Similarly, new World Champion Rob Cross faces a tough start as he will take on three of the top four in the world, plus Raymond van Barneveld within the first five night’s of games.
It promises to be another spectacular event and with £825,000 in prize money available, including £250,000 for the winner, it promises to be a fantastic four months of darts.