The Premier League is back…weather permitting.

Presumably lightning, or snow at least, won’t strike twice. Last week’s Premier League jaunt to Exeter was met with the full wrath of Storm Emma. Now, Devon’s loss is Rotterdam’s gain. The UK Open just about survived the frosty horror. Gary Anderson was the coolest of them all, and took the title in Minehead. Now attentions can return to the Premier League. ‘Leeds’ and ‘Premier League’ haven’t been uttered in the same breath for a while. This will make a nice change.

Michael van Gerwen vs Simon Whitlock

Second meets third in the night’s opening match. Simon Whitlock holds the advantage for now. That could all change after 12 legs of play – or fewer. Neither enjoyed a good UK Open. Van Gerwen’s exit was a monumental shock, not least because ITV are used to toasting his success. It goes without saying that the Dutchman is the favourite. There’s no writing off Simon Whitlock, though. If his scoring can match van Gerwen’s, he has a spectacular finish or two in the locker.

Whitlock/Lawrence Lustig/PDC

Photo: Lawrence Lustig/PDC

Gerwyn Price vs Raymond van Barneveld

Gerwyn Price’s tournament average is just 0.02 worse than Michael Smith. Yet Smith is top, and Price is bottom. The Welshman has suffered from a severe lack of game management. Often, he has fallen well behind in games. Twice, he has fought back. Otherwise, the surfeit legs lost has been insurmountable. Raymond van Barneveld isn’t much better off, though he has won a game. He was nothing short of awful against Mervyn King in Minehead. This is another good chance for the Iceman to claim a maiden win. Given that he plays Michael van Gerwen next, he’ll really need to take it.

Peter Wright vs Mensur Suljovic

Other than Michael van Gerwen, Peter Wright and Mensur Suljovic are the only player with ton-plus tournament averages. Suljovic has the third-highest checkout rate as well. Yet it took him until week four to eke out a win. One problem may be heavy scoring; he has the most 100+ scores, but the fewest 180s. The Gentle is playing well enough to survive, but there’s room to improve. He’ll need a ruthless streak to hold off Snakebite. Wright needs a win to bounce back from a disappointing UK Open.

Gary Anderson vs Daryl Gurney

Winning 10 major or premier titles means Gary Anderson is now a bona fide darts legend. A UK Open triumph has guaranteed at least a modicum of 2018 success for the Scot. He is a laid-back figure, but resting on his laurels will not be in his plans. The two-time Premier League champion will fancy his chances against Daryl Gurney. Superchin’s flaw is blindingly obvious. His tournament checkout rate is 28.57 per cent. The next-worst is Raymond van Barneveld, who is a full five per cent better off. If he doesn’t check out in this game, he doesn’t get the points. It’s really as simple as that.

Rob Cross vs Michael Smith

The Premier League’s two Englishmen go head to head. And who would have thought as recently as a few months ago that this would be a clash between a world champion and a Premier League leader? Smith is ninth in terms of tournament averages, 10th in terms of 100+ scores and fifth in terms of checkout rate. What he has done four times more than any other player is won the leg against throw. It’s the sort of killer instinct that will one day help him make good on his massive potential. Cross has already done that, in a way; he’s won the biggest title of them all. Glory is fleeting, though. A big chance to win the UK Open went begging. Building up a head of steam in the Premier League, and dumping out play-off gatecrashers like Smith, is what Voltage needs.

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Author: Edward McCosh