Darts guru Ben Levene (@benlevene96) looks ahead to the opening week of the Premier League of Darts.
Premier League Darts: Week 1| 1st February 2018, 19:00 | Sky Sports
I’ve kept things quite simple given it’s week one. I considered the 180 markets, but Daryl Gurney and Gerwyn Price, who are capable maximum hitters, are making their debuts this Thursday. Michael Smith is making his return to the competition too.
Given it’s a short best-of-12-leg format, if they take a few legs to acclimatise to their surroundings, that’s your bet out the window. So instead I’ve decided to stick with two solid straight win selections.
Mensur Suljovic v Simon Whitlock| 1st February 2018, 19:10 | Sky Sports
I was worried about Mensur coming into 2018. He didn’t look at full-throttle after his Champions League of Darts victory, and stated that reaching the last-eight of the World Championship’s would be an achievement. So there were question marks over his drive coming into the new year, which was alarming up against a field of hungry and talented players.
However, Suljovic looked on-point at the Masters last weekend, beating Michael Smith and Rob Cross, before losing out Raymond Van Barneveld in the semi-final. Mensur averaged 99 and 100 in the first two of those three matches, cumulatively hitting 27/67 of his doubles (40%) in the tournament.
Those are pretty decent numbers and should give him some confidence going forwards.
I’ve already outlined some concerns with Simon Whitlock in my outright preview, and the same issues apply here. The Whizard has struggled for consistency since reaching the final of the Grand Prix, and has lost four consecutive games over the leg format to Mensur.
We can still get 11/10 (Stan James) about Mensur. He throws first which already gives a slight edge, and his slow-style often means his opponents struggle to find a rhythm.
The 3/1 for a Suljovic win with Whitlock hitting the most 180's could also prove a shrewd investment and I wouldn't put anyone off. The Whizard hits maximum's more frequently than the Austrian, and hit more than Wade in Saturday's defeat.
Michael Van Gerwen v Rob Cross| 1st February, 21:20| Sky Sports
The game of the night sees reigning champion Michael Van Gerwen face off with world champion Rob Cross. Cross of course beat MVG in that thrilling semi-final at the Worlds.
But Van Gerwen had little trouble bouncing back at the Masters last week. The draw is a runner in this format, and this will definitely be a game of fine margins.
However, MVG is 8/11 (Stan James) to win this game, and it’s very rare you get that sort of price for him to win a darts match. To put it into context, he was a similar price ante-post to win the World Championship in December.
Van Gerwen has won 31/48 group games (65%) across last three editions of the competition, topping the group phase on each occasion.
Cross produced an outrageous performance to beat MVG at the World’s, and I’m a big fan, but MVG did miss match darts on that occasion. In fact, Cross has lost six consecutive leg play matches to Michael. December’s meeting will surely be at the back of Van Gerwen’s mind, so the duel between this pair is fascinating.
Cross has taken everything in his stride so far in his career and there is nothing to suggest that will change. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if this duo finished first and second in the group stage, and then met in the final. They are that capable.
But he’s a Premier League debutant, so if he were to take a few throws to adjust, it may be difficult to recover over such a short format, especially with Van Gerwen throwing first.
Mensur Suljovic v Simon Whitlock – Mensur Suljovic to win (11/10 Stan James)
Michael Van Gerwen v Rob Cross – Michael Van Gerwen to win (8/11 Stan James)