OUR Darts expert Michael Day (@daisy8ball) will be covering the Premier League for us over the next three months. Here is his first offering – an outright preview.
Premier League Darts | 5th February – 21st May | Sky Sports
Thursday nights will never be the same (well, for the next few months anyway), as the razzmatazz of Premier League Darts returns to our screens this week. Now in it’s 11th year, it’s more popular than ever, selling out well known venues and arenas across the length and breadth of the UK.
The top four in the PDC World rankings are joined by six selected wildcards in what promises to be the best edition of the event to date.
It also looks the most level playing there has ever been too – all 10 players could potentially stake a claim to make an assault on the £200,000 winners purse. In fact half the field are former champions of this competition, and it’s big Ray Van Barneveld (28/1 with Coral) who is the reigning holder.
All players will play each other over 12 legs each week, with two points for a win and one for draw. At the end of week nine, the bottom two will be eliminated and the remainder will then play another round of fixtures. After these, the top four will play knockout darts at the O2 in May to decide the overall winner.
With the match formats being quite short, there are opportunities on the market with usually heavy odds on favourites a slightly more decent price, although tread carefully as a draw can often come into play.
Michael Van Gerwen (5/2 Bet365) starts favourite for most markets and should be a shoe in for the qualifying positions. In his two appearances he has topped the table both times and despite being runner-up last year, he was the victor in 2013. He's number one in the world for a reason – his consistent form. He looks a good bet at 9/4 with William Hill to top the regular season league for the third time.
Phil Taylor has been inconsistent over the last 12 months but has still managed to pick up titles. A six time winner of the PDL, he has never failed to qualify come the end, although this year will pose the greatest threat yet.
New world champion Gary Anderson and eight time major winner James Wade, have also worn the this crown back in 2011 and 2009 respectively, so know what it takes to maintain a challenge through the gruelling four month process.
Adrian Lewis has yet to add this to his resume of titles, and with only one final in seven attempts, this results in somewhat of a poor return. If we break it down further, he has only managed to make finals night twice.
Surely this year he can make an impact and a real onslaught? He'll have to remain consistent but will definitley have a prove to prove as other names in the field have been getting mentioned before him of late and that will hurt. I'll take him at 11/8 with Sportingbet to reach the semi-finals.
Peter Wright and Dave Chisnall make their second appearances after their debuts in 2014. Neither with a major title to their name yet, they have reached finals between them and are capable of upsetting the higher seeds. They both survived the first trap door last year, but didn’t quite make the qualification. This year will be even tougher though should they want to finish above the dotted line.
Newcomers this year are darting youngsters Stephen Bunting and Belgium’s Kim Huybrechts. Bunting showed his undoubted class in a dream maiden year on the PDC last term with a string of strong tournament performances and a rise to 24th in the rankings.
Huybrechts’ may have raised a few eyebrows with his inclusion, but his aggressive style of play has served him well, and I think with his potential, he has a lot more to offer and is deserving of his place.
It really does look the best balance of players I’ve seen and should make gripping action each week. Coral are going 4/7 on a 9 dart finish during the event and I think that's a crazy price! With so many matches and so many great players in an ideal atmosphere it looks a shoe in to me!
There are a lot of tournament markets here, but please be careful to understand what you are picking as the wording and format can be a little confusing. I have tried to think logically in a couple of my bets and with such a long format you may need to see them as an investment!
Michael Van Gerwin to top the Premier League (9/4 William Hill)
9 Dart Finish in the event – Yes (4/7 Coral)
Adrian Lewis to make the semi-finals (11/8 Sportingbet)