Premier League Darts 2020 Preview and schedule: Night 16, Saturday September 5
There's a good chance that this is the most exciting Premier League Darts night ever.
In an unprecedented case of delayed gratification, the long COVID-19 hiatus has led to a darting omnibus, culminating in the most tense play-off race in this competition's history. You can check out the permutations here - there's a lot going on. That's without mentioning the guarantee that there'll be a third ever Premier League Darts group winner.
Let's get on with it, shall we? The first tie is an absolute belter. Gary Anderson and Gerwyn Price are never likely to invite each other around for Christmas, to put it lightly. Second-placed Anderson can technically finish first, and technically finish fifth - but neither are likely. Even in defeat to Michael van Gerwen, the Scot averaged three figures. Performance isn't a problem. Neither is temperament; Anderson will remain confident. He just needs to make sure Price doesn't get under his skin.
Price would be so much better off had he beaten Michael Smith , but chances came and went, and one point was all he got. The Iceman needs to match the pre-Judgement Night win over Anderson, then forget his previous clashes with Daryl Gurney and Glen Durrant and cheer them on. If he doesn't beat Anderson, then Price will have missed out on a first play-off berth thanks to a four-game winless streak, which he will absolutely kick himself over.
Squeaky bum time for MVG
There was a real sliding doors moment in Michael van Gerwen's win over Gary Anderson on Friday night. The Flying Scotsman wired tops for a big 145 checkout, MvG stepped in and secured one point - which he promptly turned into two. Had things worked out differently, perhaps the Dutchman's playoff hopes would be dead. But they're very much alive, and a largely positive performance against Gary Anderson needs to continue into a thrashing of whipping boy Daryl Gurney.
One sub-plot that will be forgotten amid the top four fight is that this could be Gurney's last Premier League Darts game for a while. Durrant and Nathan Aspinall look likely to be asked back, there'll be calls for Dimitri van den Bergh to be called up, and who knows which players will do their hopes the world of good in the upcoming majors? Gurney is a big stage player, but just hasn't showed it anywhere near enough this year. A win is for more than pride; it'd be a reminder of why he should be in the mix when the 2021 lineup is mulled over.
The time is Wright
Peter Wright 's timing his been spot on. The world champion is the only player to have won their past three games. Consider the opponents as well - table-topper Glen Durrant, plus Michael van Gerwen and Nathan Aspinall, the two players trailing directly in his wake - and the feat is yet more impressive. Snakebite is almost home and hosed, but can't let this fantastic momentum slip now.
Michael Smith has spoken out against the vile - and frankly, pathetic - abuse he's received. Good on him. Nobody has the right to harass a player for their performances. Hopefully Smith isn't being too harsh on himself, either. There'll of course be introspection, and it's no secret that doubles have let him down consistently. But Peter Wright was in this boat before, most notably in the 2017 Premier League Darts final. And look at him now. Smith's time will come, but for now his goal is to add another veneer of intrigue to this Night 16 drama.
Debutants' date with destiny
Glen Durrant and Nathan Aspinall were both popular picks as contenders and as Premier League Darts regulars. You never quite know how a first-timer will do. Only two of the last 11 players to make their Premier League debut (Michael van Gerwen and Rob Cross) have made the play-offs at the first time of asking. Now there's a chance that both of them can. Durrant looks likely to win the group itself, despite a defeat against Peter Wright where it looked like he was already putting on the afterburners. It's a remarkable achievement, yet not one ever considered as outside the bounds of his ability.
Aspinall is an inspiration to every player bumbling around the mid-to-lower reaches of the PDC Order of Merit. He has become a perennial contender, a major champion, and now a serious play-off candidate. Even if he doesn't make it, the Asp has a lot to be proud of. But he'll be utterly desperate to do it, as evidenced by that passionate reaction to downing Daryl Gurney. Durrant, on paper, is the worst opponent to have. But with everything on the line, the Stockport thrower will be, to quote James Wilson, sooooo ready for this. Depending on the results preceding this curtain-closer, or even in spite of them, this could be something special indeed.
Click here for more information on the 2020 Premier League Darts, including the fixtures and prize money breakdown.
Schedule Premier League Darts
Saturday September 5
Milton Keynes – Marshall Arena
19:10 Gerwyn Price v Gary Anderson
19:55 Michael van Gerwen v Daryl Gurney
20:40 Peter Wright v Michael Smith
21:25 Nathan Aspinall v Glen Durrant