In some ways, Exeter has drawn the short straw among the Premier League hosts.

For one, it has to be the follow-up act for a milestone night in Berlin. 12,500 fans were crammed into the Mercedes-Benz Arena, and the Westpoint Arena won’t quite reach those heights. Additionally, every competitor except Mensur Suljovic will be playing with one eye on this weekend’s UK Open. But the Exeter crowd should still expect the regular dose of high quality action. With two world champions doing battle in the first game, and the players with the highest overall Premier League averages meeting, it should be a good night.

Gary Anderson vs Rob Cross

The world numbers three and four clash in the heart of Devon. Neither started 2018 well, but look to be back to something close to their best. Rob Cross has managed successive Premier League wins to cancel out early defeats to Michael van Gerwen and Simon Whitlock. Gary Anderson has battled health problems and won. His comeback to draw with Peter Wright last week was a sign that the fight is there. That means this game is in the balance, because the two are hard to separate in full flow.

Daryl Gurney vs Peter Wright

Both won majors in 2017. But both will have to play much better to do the same in 2018. Peter Wright is doing well in fits and starts, not helped by constant changing of his setup. Despite playing well and hitting one of the most aesthetically beautiful 180s likely to be seen, Snakebite still failed to finish Gary Anderson off in Berlin. Ruthlessness has also been Daryl Gurney’s fatal flaw. The excellent treble hitting – Superchin is right up there with the best, and way ahead of Wright – is rendered pointless by an inability to hit key doubles. Whoever keeps their cool will take it all.

Michael van Gerwen vs Mensur Suljovic

Michael van Gerwen is working his way down the Order of Merit in the Premier League. He has played the number two, three, four and five in the world. With three of them vanquished, it is time to take on the number six. Mensur Suljovic finally reaped the rewards for superb scoring with victory over Gerwyn Price in Germany. When the Gentle suffers a blip in a game, however, it’s often a big one. The Green Machine punished the unpunishable in a 110-averaging Gary Anderson, so Suljovic has to be flawless. In this form, a van Gerwen defeat is less an aberration than an earth-shattering shock.

Raymond van Barneveld vs Michael Smith

Despite being top of the Premier League – with four wins from four, no less – Michael Smith hasn’t been widely backed. Our VIP prediction competition participants have backed a stuttering Raymond van Barneveld ahead of him, bar Chris Mason. The general consensus is that Bully Boy has ridden his luck, struck important doubles, but is set for a downfall any time now. The same was said of Leicester City when football was questioning what was possible. Smith will not be afraid of van Barneveld, whose lackadaisical style means he looks extremely disinterested when he is losing, but inside will be more frustrated than anyone.

Simon Whitlock vs Gerwyn Price

Gerwyn Price returns to Minehead this weekend to battle for the trophy he almost won a year ago. On current form, he doesn’t stand a chance. The Iceman has not warmed to the Premier League at all, posting a series of uninspiring displays. It was Mensur Suljovic who finally gave him the beating he deserved. It may be the wake-up call Price needs. His ability is undeniable, particularly at finding any red bit in the 20 bed. He needs to get wins on the board, starting against Simon Whitlock. The Wizard lost for the first time in the 2018 Premier League in Berlin; the last thing he will want is a slide down the table. He will see Price, like the rest of the league currently does, as the easiest source of points. It is up to the Welshman to prove them all wrong – something he relishes doing.

Tags: |

Author: Edward McCosh