The Premier League pays its first visit to Germany in its 14-year history, as the Mercedes-Benz Arena hosts Night 4.
Nearly 2.8 million households in Germany tuned into the PDC World Championship Final last month when Rob Cross defeated Phil Taylor, so expect a feverish atmosphere because this is a growing sport in the nation.
We have five good matches, which concludes with the best of the night but first up there is a top of the table clash.
Michael Smith vs Simon Whitlock
Many, including myself, will have been surprised by how Simon Whitlock has started the Premier League campaign.
The Aussie has won all three of his games so far, including the notable scalp of Rob Cross.
What’s been quite impressive is how ‘The Wizard’ has closed out legs. The doubles can be his Achilles heel at times but so far he’s leading the Checkout Percentage table with a league-best of 55%.
Michael Smith sits in second on legs difference. I’m not totally surprised by how well he’s started because in the last six-nine months, he’s been showing glimpses of what he’s capable of.
In the first Players Championship event, Smith lost in the Last 16 6-5 to Gerwyn Price yet ‘Bullyboy’ averaged 110.2 in that game. If he can produce anything like that on this stage then we could have an exciting match in prospect.
With Whitlock finishing well, Smith is going to have to score well and finish well too. His finishing is the third best at 43%, however, he has the second lowest tournament average, which is somewhat surprising because you generally associate him as a high scorer.
Smith holds the narrow H2H lead 6-5 but it’s Whitlock that has won the last two meetings and funnily enough, those two wins last year both came in Germany at the German Darts Masters and German Darts Grand Prix.
My bet here would be Smith Checkout Over 98.5 (5/6 – William Hill). ‘Bullyboy’ has taken some good finishes out throughout his three games with his highest of each game being 114, 124 and 116 meaning this bet would have landed.
Gerwyn Price vs Mensur Suljovic
Mensur Suljovic is still looking for his first Premier League point but the debutant hasn’t played too badly at all in his first three matches.
His first two defeats saw him average 103.7 and 102.5, which on other days would be enough to have earned him two wins.
Last week he struggled to get going against Michael Smith and only average 91.1 but the Austrian still has the second highest tournament average of 99.14, which is slightly bizarre given his lack of points. He can feel unlucky not yet to have registered.
In contrast, Gerwyn Price is quite lucky to have two points because last week’s draw against Daryl Gurney should really have been a defeat but the Northern Irishman failed to put the game to bed.
Price has two points from draws but he’s got the lowest tournament average at 93.15 and if he wants to avoid elimination then he’ll have to up that somewhat significantly.
The former rugby player enjoyed a good first day at the Players Championship events having reached the Semi-Finals but the second day saw a first-round defeat to Dimitri van den Bergh.
‘The Iceman’ has won seven of his nine games against Suljovic in the past and we’ve seen in the past that sort of edge play a part. However, I’d be looking at the draw, so legs because when this pair meet there is little to separate them.
But I’d be going for something along the lines of Price -1.5 180 (5/4 – Sky Bet) because Suljovic isn’t a big 180 hitter having only got four so far while Price has hit double that. When on song the Welshman can rattle in plenty of 180s, so that is an appealing bet.
Michael van Gerwen vs Daryl Gurney
Michael van Gerwen put in a top-class display last week to defeat Gary Anderson 7-3, as he averaged 110.6 in a game jam-packed with 180s.
The Dutchman hit seven of the 11 maximums in that game but his opponent this evening has hit the most in the competition so far.
Daryl Gurney could be another player in danger because he’s thrown the lead away in games that he should be closing out and that could prove costly over this short format.
It did so last week when only taking a point out of his game with Gerwyn Price and my problem with the Northern Irishman is that he can play four or five good legs then he’ll drop off and give his opponent chances.
Obviously, he’s still learning about this event with it being his debut but the World Grand Prix champion needs to sharpen up and concentrate more at the oche because there have been a number of lax efforts.
Gurney has 14 maximums compared to 12 from MvG, so with two high scorers that play at a favourable tempo then it could be another game full of 180s.
But this game will as ever come down to finishing. ‘Mighty Mike’ has the second best finishing stats at 50%, however, Gurney is down at 30%, which he’ll need to vastly improve if he wants to get legs on the board and register wins.
The world number one has won 11 of his 13 matches against Gurney and he demolished ‘Superchin’ in a UK Open Qualifier Quarter-Final earlier on in the month 6-1.
Like I’ve stated above, this could be a game where they bounce off each other and given Gurney is a good 180 hitter then I’d be looking at his bar given how it has been set.
He hit five against van Barneveld and last week he got six against Price. Gurney did only hit three in defeat against Smith but to trouble MvG he’ll have to put the pressure on and score heavily, so Gurney Over 3.5 180s (11/10 – Sky Bet and William Hill).
Rob Cross vs Raymond van Barneveld
Is it too early to say this game is between two players going in opposite directions?
Rob Cross is back on the up after a difficult start to his debut year having lost to MvG and Whitlock in his first two games but last week he was back at it when defeating Peter Wright 7-4.
It was no surprise given he’d played well the weekend before on the floor and after the hullaballoo that World Championship win he was given little time to prepare and practice due to media and sponsorship commitments.
So, Cross is back on the up but I question which way ‘Barney’ is going and I’m going to have to say it’s a bit of a decline.
I know I’ve talked him up in recently but the lack of consistency so far makes him a hard proposition to way up.
Last week’s 7-4 defeat to Simon Whitlock saw a 93 average and just 29% on the doubles. He just didn’t look as focused or confident as he had in the first couple of weeks.
‘Voltage’ has won all three past meetings with van Barneveld, so he holds that advantage over the Dutchman, who does allow that sort of thing to play on his mind.
Cross has the worst checkout percentage of the ten players at just 27% and that’s not something I’ve come to expect from him.
Despite that low finishing accuracy, I’m still expecting Cross to get the two points at the end of the game. It’s the sort of game where I’d be going small stakes on correct scores with Cross 7-3 (8/1) and Cross 7-4 (11/2 – Bet Victor) being the ways to go.
Peter Wright vs Gary Anderson
Peter Wright endured a difficult weekend at the Players Championship events winning just one of his three matches. He lost to Wayne Jones in the second round of the first event before being beaten by ‘Awesome’ Dawson Murschell in the first round of the second event.
I haven’t seen or heard anything about ‘Snakebite’ tinkering with his equipment over that weekend but that is something you always have to consider given what the Scot is like.
He played well despite losing to Cross last week with a 102.32 average, a 101 high finish and 44% on the doubles; not a shabby performance at all but not good enough on the night.
It was similar sentiments that apply to Anderson, who lost 7-3 to MvG with a 110.79 average and of course the ‘Big Fish’ of a 170 checkout.
We all know ‘The Flying Scotsman’ is capable of those performances and he looked to be pain-free after a persistent back problem had been plaguing him. If fully treated and recovered then Anderson is likely to be putting in 100+ averages from now on.
But that’s still a question mark, as is Wright’s equipment.
Five of their last seven Premier League meetings have seen 11 or 12 legs, so that has to be the way to play this game.
In last years competition, there was a win apiece with Anderson winning one 7-2 while Wright won the other 7-5. When looking through those two matches I noticed the 180 totals of eight and ten respectively therefore Over 6 Match 180s (EVS – Sky Bet) looks to be a good bet.
Both of those totals saw Anderson win the 180 count and he hit six in both of those games, so after last week’s performance I’d be going for a similar outcome with the maximums, so Over 3.5 Anderson 180s (5/4 – Sky Bet) looks rather good.
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