The biggest show in darts is now under way, and is already moving to its second country.

Once upon a time, Premier League Darts didn’t even leave England. In 2018, weeks one and two bypass it entirely. After a curtain-raiser in Dublin, we move on to Cardiff. The Welsh capital welcomes ten stars in various conditions. There’s the in-form and the bedraggled; the fit and the walking wounded; the confident and the worried. But anything can happen on any given Thursday, as was shown in Ireland. Here’s a quick look at the Premier League fixtures this week.

Michael Smith vs Daryl Gurney

It took Michael Smith five weeks to register a single point back in 2016. Now he’s on two going into week two. The 82 average a visibly handicapped Gary Anderson offered up helped, of course. It could be asked why Smith was even 5-1 down against the ailing Scot. That said, he got the win, and then silenced his critics at the weekend. A superb performance in UK Open qualifying was only bettered by Michael van Gerwen across three days. Bully Boy was the only one to defeat the world number one. He’s as confident now as he has been in recent times. Daryl Gurney went the opposite way, snatching a draw from the jaws of victory in Dublin. His Wigan form wasn’t worth writing home about. Superchin has been more widely tipped in Premier League circles than his opponent on Thursday, but the formbook only points one way.

Rob Cross vs Simon Whitlock

One is in top form; the other is in a slump. Throughout 2017, it would have been obvious which of that pair is Rob Cross, and which is Simon Whitlock. Now the tables have turned. Whitlock was imperious in Dublin, smashing in a 106.49 average and missing just one dart at a double in his 7-5 defeat of Mensur Suljovic. The Wizard, it would seem, is back. Cross followed up defeat to Suljovic in the Masters by receiving a thrashing at the hands of van Gerwen in the Premier League opener. Corey Cadby, Jamie Hughes and Ryan Meikle all took turns to dump Cross out of UK Open qualifying. Now he faces an uphill battle in returning to the major where he made his name. Never mind that – he faces a struggle overcoming Whitlock. What would have been considered an easy call a few weeks ago is now anyone’s guess.

Michael van Gerwen vs Peter Wright

A repeat of last year’s Premier League Darts final. Michael van Gerwen won the title at the 02 Arena last May. But it could have been oh so different. Peter Wright threw away his chance of glory – literally – and the Dutchman pounced. A World Championship to round off 2017 was not forthcoming for Mighty Mike, but he has started 2018 in fine fashion. He took the Masters title, plus two out of the three UK Open qualifiers. A nine-darter and a Premier League revenge mission against Cross have been chalked off too. For Wright, only a performance on another realm to the one he put in against Gerwyn Price will suffice. His tinkering cost him dearly, as the set of darts he used were clearly unsuitable. With van Gerwen piling on the pressure, Snakebite does not need his nerve or his choice of darts to let him down.

Gerwyn Price vs Gary Anderson

This should be tasty. Gary Anderson has branded Gerwyn Price “a circus clown” recently. Even more recently, he offered a cutting jibe after knocking Price out of the Masters. Get back to the practice board, Anderson said. The Welshman has insisted that he will change his game for no man. Now he has the perfect chance to show the Flying Scotsman what he’s really made of, in front of his home crowd. All the factors are in the Iceman’s favour. The Cardiff support should get behind him throughout. And he is playing against a man who, in all reality, should not really be toeing an oche. Anderson’s back issues are so severe that, even if he makes it to Judgement Night, he may well be in line for elimination. Price will not care about that, however. A chance to pile on the misery for Anderson is enough for him.

Raymond van Barneveld vs Mensur Suljovic

A pair with no love for the UK Open clash in Cardiff. Mensur Suljovic is not even bothering to try making it to Minehead. Raymond van Barneveld made the effort, but swiftly gave up after back-to-back defeats to Krzysztof Ratajski in the last 128 in Wigan. The Dutchman comes into this with one point to Suljovic’s zero. That’s despite the Gentle averaging 10 points more in Dublin. The Austrian’s 103 was the second-best average of the night. The only problem was that his opponent, Simon Whitlock, managed the highest. Barney showed some spirit to nick a point off Daryl Gurney. More of that will draw mistakes from Suljovic in what should be an even affair.

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Author: Edward McCosh