Schedule & Preview for Night One of 2021 Premier League Darts featuring Van Gerwen versus Van den Bergh
Unfortunately, it's another Premier League Darts tempered by the COVID-enforced lack of crowds. Given that its entire raison d'etre is showcasing the world's best in various packed venues, there's a risk of this year's edition could be a bit of a damp squib. That being said, putting the likes of Michael van Gerwen, Peter Wright, Gary Anderson et al together will always produce something special.
The first match of the 2021 season is the same as the last of the 2020 campaign. Nobody saw Nathan Aspinall and Glen Durrant making the final together last time out. And when Durrant was lifting the title, few would've said the pair would be favourites for relegation a year later. But with Aspinall in patchy form and Durrant in a complete rut, that's where we are. A win would be a massive statement for either, but particularly Duzza, who is the least fancied defending champion in Premier League Darts history.
Rob Cross will also have something to prove, having been relegated in 2020. Had he not still been fourth in the world after the World Championship, Voltage probably wouldn't have been involved. He takes on the ultimate wildcard first in Jose de Sousa. There's just no way of knowing how De Sousa will take to the Premier League Darts. Whatever happens, expect it to be pretty entertaining.
Jonny Clayton comes into his full Premier League debut (let's just forget his contender appearance) as a hot tip to do well. The Ferret is among the world's most in-form players right now, and has nothing to fear. His first assignment is to dispatch last season's semi-finalist, Peter Wright, who will attack this year's event with every available set of darts equipment known to man. Hope he brought a big suitcase to Milton Keynes.
The big match of the opening night was set to be Gerwyn Price facing Gary Anderson in a repeat of the World Championship final but news emerged on the morning of the tournament that he had tested positive for Covid-19.
Instead, reigning UK Open and 2009 Premier League champion, James Wade will step in as a direct replacement in the line-up and will face 'The Flying Scotsman'. The Aldershot ace felt aggrieved not to be in the line-up after a brilliant 12 months but is in under different circumstances than being picked.
Michael van Gerwen didn't finish first in the Premier League Darts table last season. That's crazy enough. But to finish sixth...well, it's a shock until you remember that it was 2020, and it would've been hard to be surprised if he'd sprouted wings and flown away. The Dutchman will definitely be after a flying start to this assault on the title, and on paper, Dimitri van den Bergh's a decent first opponent to have. The Dream Maker does enjoy being on the stage, however, so it's no done deal for the Green Machine.
Schedule 2021 Premier League Darts
Night One - Monday April 5
19:10 Nathan Aspinall v Glen Durrant
19:50 Rob Cross v Jose de Sousa
20:30 Peter Wright v Jonny Clayton
21:10 James Wade v Gary Anderson*
21:50 Michael van Gerwen v Dimitri Van den Bergh
*Gerwyn Price has since returned a positive Covid-19 test so has been replaced in the line-up by James Wade.