The first two weeks of the 2018 Unibet Premier League of Darts are in the books and we have a surprise early leader. Many of us thought that Australian Simon Whitlock might struggle back on the big stage of the Premier League, but so far he’s taken it in his stride with two excellent wins. Even late last year, Whitlock declared that reaching the Premier League was his major goal, and now that he’s achieved that, a weight has clearly been lifted from his shoulders. He’s playing relaxed, inspired darts at the moment, and we hope to see it continue!
And speaking of Australians, before we get started, we need to mention the effort of young Aussie Corey Cadby who was victorious in the UK Open Qualifier 5 Event over the weekend. It was just his fifth professional PDC event in the UK and he went all the way, defeating World Champion Rob Cross in the final to secure his first PDC title! Congratulations to The King! If you want to check out the final, here it is:
Now moving on, we had some solid results last week, so let’s keep that momentum going as we take a look at this week’s matches in our Premier League Week 3 preview!
Mensur Suljovic vs Michael Smith
Joining Simon Whitlock at the top of the table by Michael Smith as the only other player to have won both his matches so far. Smith was pretty impressive in defeating Daryl Gurney has week and now seems to have found the confidence to match his potential. It’s just a matter of whether Smith can bring consistency to his game week in, week out, and back up with another strong performance this week.
It won’t be easy up against Mensur Suljovic. Eventhough the table shows Suljovic towards the bottom, he hasn’t played badly at all in his two losses. He came up against a rampant Whitlock in the first week before going down to Barney 7-5 last week in another tough encounter. His tournament average of 103.13 is actually easily the highest in the league so far, and his checkout percentage of 45.45% is third best. So it could easily have swung the other way for “The Gentle”.
Really tough match to call. I could make a case for either player here and I think it might go the distance.
I can’t find a lot of value here, but if you wanted something at short odds, I think we should see over 10.5 legs and I like Mensur to clear a low 180s line.
Daryl Gurney vs Gerwyn Price
Premier League newcomers will clash here which means that one of them, baring a draw, will finally get their first taste of victory.
Daryl Gurney drew with Barney in the opening week before going down to Michael Smith 7-4 last week. Gurney probably should’ve beaten Barney, missing three match darts, but couldn’t keep up with Smith last week. His checkouts have been a bit of a worry – normally he’s laser focussed on that double 16 – so he’ll want to improve on that this week. Gurney did reach the final of the UK Open Qualifier 6 Event over the weekend, and had the most 180s of the day, so he’s in solid form.
Gerwyn Price also has one point to his credit after a draw in the opening week against Peter Wright. We had expectations of Price pushing Gary Anderson last week, but he was blown away in a 7-3 loss. If Price is to stay out of the relegation zone, he’ll want to be grabbing points here but it’s going to be tough as Gurney is pretty consistent.
I think we’re getting a really good price for Gurney to get the win here, he just needs to start finding his range on the doubles. For some extra value, we’ll add Gurney to have the most 180s as well.
Peter Wright vs Rob Cross
This is a really interesting matchup. Wright is coming off a huge win against world number one Michael van Gerwen last week, and now runs into the reigning World Champion. Wright changed his darts back to a more conventional configuration last week and it seemed to work for him. Having said that, if MVG took his chances early in the match, then he probably kicks away. As it was, MVG was slightly off, and Wright punished him with 7/12 on doubles.
Wright will have to match that level against Rob Cross who is sitting on the bottom of the table and chasing his first points of the Premier League. Many have talked about a World Championship hangover, and Cross has certainly been off the boil, but he showed glimpses of being back to his best during the week at the UK Open qualifiers, reaching the semi-finals twice, and the final once in the three events. He’ll be looking to bring that sort of form over to the Premier League stage.
A really tough one to call, but I think Cross is showing good form, and Wright was a little fortunate that MVG missed some early darts last week. Going to nibble Cross to see him get his first win.
Gary Anderson vs Michael van Gerwen
This will be a beauty with Gary Anderson looking to inflict rare back-to-back losses for MVG. There were big concerns over Anderson’s back injury before last week, but he put those concerns to rest with an excellent showing to comprehensively defeat Gerwyn Price. He then backed up to win the UK Open Qualifier 4 event over the weekend to further prove his fitness and form. Having Anderson firing is exciting for the league as he provides another genuine contender for the title.
However Anderson runs into a fired-up MVG who will be wanting to redeem himself for a disappointing performance last week. He missed some crucial darts at doubles early that would’ve just about closed the gate on Peter Wright. He let him back in and dropped his head, which is something you rarely see from MVG. I can’t see him misfiring two weeks in a row.
Anderson is a huge price to win, all things considered, at $4.75, so you may want to consider him at the plus 2.5 leg handicap. I think a slightly better play is to take the overs on Anderson’s average. If both players are close to what they normally can produce, they’ll average over 100 in their sleep, so happy to take a sizable whack at the overs on a line of 99.5 average for Anderson.
Simon Whitlock vs Raymond van Barneveld
The final match of the evening will see Simon Whitlock trying to maintain his unbeaten record against Raymond van Barneveld. No one expected to see Whitlock on top of the table, but it’s exciting to see him find the form of years gone by. It’s his checkouts which are doing the damage, with the Aussie going at 53.85% so far this season which is excellent. He has, however, only had two 180s in his first two matches. Last week he scored a 7-1 win over Rob Cross, but perhaps that was as much Cross being off, than Whitlock being on.
This week will be a real test against the ever-consistent Barney who also hasn’t tasted defeat as yet with a win and a draw in his first two matches. Barney has looked really solid with eight 180s and some really good checkouts. I feel that Barney is going to go very deep in the Premier League this year.
I think we’re getting a good price on Barney and once again we’re going to oppose Whitlock. I also think we can take on the line for Whitlock’s average. His average in week one of 106.49 was enormous, but it’s the only time he’s averaged over 100 in his last 26 television matches. The line of 97.50 has also only been covered four other times in that period. While he is in great form, historically, this is not a number that he regularly covers on the TV stage, and Barney won’t be scoring the house down to help him.
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