As the Premier League Darts heads to the Second City, all eyes are on the races for first and fourth. There will be plenty to play for in Birmingham.
Six of our tungsten titans have a lot at stake. The other two go into their last four games playing mostly for pride. More on Peter Wright later – it’s Michael Smith who opens the night. Last year’s Premier League Darts runner-up has had a miserable time of it. His Cardiff defeat to Gerwyn Price summed it up; a good average, a respectable performance, but ultimately a complete lack of cutting edge. Where 2018’s Smith snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, the 2019 edition did much the opposite.
His opponent in Birmingham is Mr Inconsistency himself, Mensur Suljovic. At a time where every point counts, the Gentle has veered between brilliant and baffling. His recent form reads loss, win, loss, win. The latter of those, against Daryl Gurney, handed Suljovic a huge advantage over the Northern Irishman. He still has Wade and Price to contend with – while Gurney is not out of the reckoning. It means that his on-off form needs to be corrected, starting against the man who props up the table.
Rob Cross has only dropped points on four occasions in the 2019 Premier League Darts. Two of them have come against Michael van Gerwen. Those defeats mean that he is now chasing the Dutchman. If he doesn’t finish top, those performances (both heavy defeats, too) will be to blame. For the most part, he’s steamrollered those below him. That includes Gerwyn Price, who was well beaten in Berlin. The new-look Iceman doesn’t give up though. He’s fourth, and wants to stay there. That means throwing a spanner in the works for Cross’ waning title bid.
On a week where the Avengers dominate the headlines, Peter Wright is at his Endgame, but there’s nothing left to avenge. No heroics will prevent the 2017 runner-up from bowing out once the group stage draws to a close. He is well aware why; the endless tinkering befits a man who is ill at ease with himself. A bad workman blames his tools, they say. One who endlessly switches out his tools needs to realise that they aren’t the problem. Daryl Gurney will want to compound Wright’s misery. It’s not just that – he has to. Should he falter here, those above him will make the play-offs that much harder to reach. Defeat against a player winless in his last seven Premier League Darts matches would see his top four chances vanish into dust.
There’s a revenge mission in the offing for Michael van Gerwen, as he takes on the one man who has really beaten him in this year’s contest. Yes, Daryl Gurney won against him in Berlin. But what James Wade did before that in Exeter was more than that. With every passing match, it feels a bit more like the 2009 champion could actually win this thing. But there’s a fine line between success and failure. Wade could be out of the top four come the end of play. Van Gerwen, perhaps the Man City to Rob Cross’ Liverpool, knows that every moment in his title race is crucial, because he hasn’t been put under this sort of pressure before. For the most part, the Dutchman tends to thrive in such circumstances. Getting back the bragging rights from Wade is step one. Winning a fifth Premier League title is a much longer step two.
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Night Thirteen schedule
19:10 Mensur Suljovic v Michael Smith
20:00 Rob Cross v Gerwyn Price
20:45 Daryl Gurney v Peter Wright
21:30 James Wade v Michael van Gerwen
Author: Ed McCosh