Last week saw Berlin host its first night of Premier League Darts action with Michael Smith continuing his perfect start to the campaign with a 7-3 win over Simon Whitlock.
Mensur Suljovic recorded his first ever Premier League win in front of a home crowd while there were wins for Michael van Gerwen and Rob Cross too.
The last match of the night was the best with Gary Anderson coming from 6-3 down to earn a draw against Peter Wright.
We’re in Exeter on night five and here are a few things to look out for as players look to play themselves into a bit of form ahead of this weekend’s UK Open.
Gary Anderson vs Rob Cross
After a slow start, World Champion Rob Cross has won his last two matches with successes over Peter Wright and Raymond van Barneveld.
He’s got one more point than Anderson, who has lost two of his four games thus far, yet in his last two games ‘ The Flying Scotsman’ has averaged 110.79 and 105.25 with those performances only yielding a solitary point.
The Scot is averaging just shy of 100 in the competition so far and has hit the joint most 180s on 17.
He looked over his back problem last week and with that settled he can focus on playing his best darts. Those last two performances have been excellent and on other days would have earned two wins but for the quality of his opponents.
These two have met three times before and Anderson has come out on top on each occasion, including a UK Open qualifying event semi-final earlier this year when winning 6-5.
This is a game where you’d expect it to be close with plenty of high scoring given both players are starting to hit form.
Over 3.5 Anderson 180s (EVS – Sky Bet) looks worthy of some interest given he’s hit 17 in four weeks so far. He hit five last week against Wright, four against MvG and five against Gerwyn Price.
If pressed to give a winner then I would say Anderson but only narrowly.
Daryl Gurney vs Peter Wright
Daryl Gurney has had a difficult start to his Premier League career with just two points in four weeks but it could be so much better.
He was well beaten against MvG last week but he’ll be ruing what happened in Week 3 when allowing Gerwyn Price to steal a point from him.
Peter Wright has been playing well since switching back to this type of dart and it’s seen him take three points from games against MvG and Anderson last week.
He was 6-3 up against Anderson but his compatriot turned on the style in the last three legs to earn a point.
Wright is averaging just over 100 for the tournament with Gurney down on 97. Not only that but Wright’s finishing has been so much better.
‘Snakebite’s’ checkout success rate is at 40% compared to Gurney’s at 28.5%, which is the worst of the ten competitors.
Wright has won 11 of their 18 previous meetings but Gurney did win a Protour event earlier on in the year with a 6-3 win in a semi-final before losing out in the final.
With Gurney’s poor finishing then I’d be looking at Gurney Highest Checkout UNDER 98.5 (10/11 – Sky Bet). Not only is he bottom of the checkout percentage figures, his highest match checkouts so far have been 95, 58, 81 and 68.
Wright is playing the better of the two and that’s shown of late, so Wright -2.5 Legs (5/4 – Sky Bet) looks to be a way in with him punishing Gurney at key times.
Mensur Suljovic vs Michael van Gerwen
After losing to Peter Wright, Michael van Gerwen hasn’t messed around in his matches.
He beat Gary Anderson 7-3 with a 110.6 average and last week he thrashed Daryl Gurney 7-2 with a 103.42.
The best part of MvG is his relentlessness. The facial expression he pulled last week when wiring a dart at bull for the 170 out was extraordinary and playing MvG to hit a 170 (12/1 – Sky Bet) isn’t the worst idea given it is something he leaves himself a couple of times per match – last week he left himself on 170 three times!
Mensur Suljovic earned his first win last week with a 7-3 win over Gerwyn Price and he played really well once more.
The Austrian is unlucky not to have picked up points earlier in his campaign given how well he’s played but he got his just rewards last week.
MvG has the best tournament average (103.99) and checkout percentage (48) but Suljovic isn’t far behind with the second-best average (100.9) and third best checkout success rate (44%).
Stats tell you one story but I can’t see how Suljovic will cope with the heavy scoring of the Dutchman, so with everything in mind the Match Treble – MvG to Win, Most 180s and Highest Checkout (11/10) has to be the play, with the 170 checkout worth a small interest.
Raymond van Barneveld vs Michael Smith
Did anybody have Michael Smith top and with a 100% record after four weeks? No, not me either!
‘Bullyboy’ has come back in great form with a real maturity and belief that he has the game to compete with the best but he sounds like he’s got that point to prove to those doubters as well.
Let’s go back to 2016 and Smith’s Premier League debut. He finished bottom on three points with just one win and that came against tonight’s opponent Raymond van Barneveld, so he has happy memories because that came in Exeter too!
I said last week that I couldn’t be backing ‘Barney’ given he just looks out of touch. Last week he just didn’t seem focused or interested, which may sound harsh.
In the end, he lost 7-3 to Rob Cross with just an 88.6 average and if he repeats that here then he’ll be easily beaten.
The 180s are quite close in the competition so far with Smith edging the count 12-10 but if he finds his rhythm early then I think he’ll be hard to peg back.
The man from St Helens hit five 180s last week in his 7-3 win when looking in complete control, so Smith to Win & Hit Most 180s (11/4) looks too good to turn down given he’s a man full of confidence playing someone who failed to register one last week while looking out of form.
One thing the bookies are doing is underestimating Smith’s finishing, especially when in the groove on a three-dart outshot.
His highest finish in each game has been over 100 with 114, 124, 116 & 106 outs, so Smith Highest Checkout OVER 100.5 (5/6 – William Hill) looks fairly sound.
Simon Whitlock vs Gerwyn Price
I’ve been surprised by how well Simon Whitlock has started this campaign but he stuttered last week when averaging just 85.6 with a checkout success rate at 21%.
He is a player that can turn up and play really well but he can throw in the odd shocker along the way too.
The problem with ‘The Wizard’ is his unpredictable nature but he’s playing a man in Gerwyn Price who is very fortunate to have two points on the board.
He didn’t take advantage of Peter Wright’s struggles on the opening night while an ailing Gary Anderson thrashed him.
Against Daryl Gurney he was 5-1 down but managed to win five of the next six legs to earn a draw, so he’s ridden his luck at times too.
The former rugby player has the worst average of the lot at just 92.58 while Whitlock’s is at 94.89.
And despite the Aussie’s struggles on the outer ring last week he’s still got the second best checkout success rate at 46% compared to Price’s 39%.
From a punting perspective, this game is one I’ll be leaving alone due to their unpredictable nature. I’m expecting Whitlock to win but it’ll probably be a narrow win with Price showing his usual grit to dig-in.
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