Wednesday was one intense Premier League showdown in Rotterdam. Ready for another?
In a Premier League first, we’ve got consecutive nights of action in the same location. The Ahoy Arena was at its ear-splitting best for what has been dubbed Week 11A. With two homegrown heroes clashing on Thursday evening, Week 11B could take the decibel level up even higher. Michael van Gerwen and Raymond van Barneveld will of course be the centre of attention. But there’s plenty more for the Rotterdam crowd to look forward to. The opening four fixtures sees the league’s top four taking on the bottom four. That means that tonight’s action could be pivotal in the race for the playoffs. Should the favourites all win, they would each have one foot in the door for the London end-of-season showdown. It could be two feet for van Gerwen, who could seal his playoff spot if everything goes his way.
Simon Whitlock vs Michael Smith 19:15
Whitlock and Smith last met in Week Four, in Berlin. At that point, both had three wins from three games. Smith prevailed, and the pair’s paths diverged. Bully Boy has picked up three wins since; the Wizard managed just the one. But the pair have one thing in common now. They are the only two players to have lost their last two Premier League games. That will change for at least one of them. Smith has always thrived on punishing his opponents for their mistakes. So what can he do when his rival makes none? He was simply blown away by Gary Anderson on Wednesday. Whitlock was struck by the twin threats of an inspired Raymond van Barneveld and an inspiring Rotterdam crowd. That said, the Aussie’s stats were equally uninspiring against Michael van Gerwen in Sheffield, and against Gerwyn Price in Liverpool. Smith has played consistently well, and this is one of those games where he tends to reap the rewards.
Daryl Gurney vs Gary Anderson 19:50
If you could bottle whatever had possessed Anderson on Wednesday night and sell it, the demand would be endless. The Scot was utterly dazzling, and briefly threatened to steal Raymond van Barneveld’s thunder. A 109.91 average blew Michael Smith out of the water. The average may have dropped ten points against Rob Cross, but it was still a hugely impressive display. A first Premier League nine-darter of the season would have capped it off, but Anderson’s effort went a centimetre the wrong way. Next in the firing line is Daryl Gurney, whose attitude deserves plenty of credit. With Cross cruising to victory, he summoned up the strength to mount a credible fightback. It wasn’t enough, but it was a stern reminder for Anderson that the Grand Prix champion won’t go down without a fight.
Rob Cross vs Peter Wright 20:30
The world number three takes on the world number two – or second plays last. Wright led Cross by four points after Week Two. Now they go into this clash with the world champion a full six points clear. That said, Snakebite is on the up. The Scot has managed two wins on the bounce, and became the first player to land multiple wins against Michael van Gerwen in 2018. At this point, he has nothing to lose. That makes Wright a serious danger. Cross will need to be wary if he is to avoid two defeats on the spin. Voltage admitted that the crowd volume had startled him. With that in mind and with Daryl Gurney’s mini-comeback acting as a cautionary tale, Cross should be much sharper against the man propping up the Premier League table.
Michael van Gerwen vs Raymond van Barneveld 21:10
This is the one the Rotterdam crowd will be geared up for. Raymond van Barneveld was disappointed, but to the neutral this tie is perfect. Two darting masters who often bring out the best in each other, with the wildcard of a crowd which isn’t sure which player to back. Barney’s legendary status might earn him a little more support, but it’s unlikely to bother van Gerwen. The defending Premier League champion is fiercely competitive. His loss to Peter Wright may have caused him a sleepless night. What is certain is that he’ll take to the stage on Thursday evening looking to avenge the previous night’s failure. He will meet the most pumped-up version of van Barneveld we have seen in a long time. A motivated Barney is a brilliant Barney. If the stars align, this could be one fixture that is referenced for years to come.
Daryl Gurney vs Simon Whitlock 21:50
Come the end of the night, Gurney and Whitlock could be in very different places. Either they will be buoyed by earlier success or they will be scrapping for their playoff hopes, which would be dangling by a fine thread. A lot will depend on the preceding performance. Gurney, being one point ahead going into the Thursday evening action, has the slight advantage. The Wizard failing to beat anyone apart from Gerwyn Price since Week Three – and Price had already given up by then – also suggests the Northern Irishman has the advantage. The pair scrapped in the Grand Prix final last year, and they battled to a draw in the Premier League in Nottingham. The term ‘hard-fought’ is a shoo-in to feature in match reports. What each player will be desperate for is the word “victorious” featuring alongside their name.
Click here to see the standings after Premier League 11A
Author: Ed McCosh