The 2019 PDC Unibet Premier League of Darts kicks off this week, with the most popular weekly darts tournament in the world stretching over the next 17 weeks, wrapping up with the finals in May. Events are held every week around the UK and Europe on Thursday nights, which equates to early Friday morning Australian time.
This year’s Premier League gets underway with a little uncertainty following the late withdrawal of Gary Anderson due to a back injury. Rather than replace Anderson with some star power like Simon Whitlock, Dave Chisnall or Adrian Lewis, the PDC have decided to introduce nine “contenders”. These players are made up of young and upcoming players, and some local favourites, who will get their chance to compete against the elite on the big stage. The contenders won’t earn points in the league, but will each feature in one event to take a shot at one of the regular Premier League players.
It’s a very strange decision. The Premier League has always been promoted as the best of the best, but now we have nine lesser-known players joining the competition. It’s going to be hard work for any of them to defeat the elite players of the game, but even so, it does create an uneven playing field which is not ideal.
It’s also strange because this year saw Raymond van Barneveld included in the Premier League once again, despite a clear drop in rankings and form in recent years. He has star power no doubt, but he has struggled to find his best. Even more reason I would’ve thought that Anderson should’ve been replaced with someone higher on the order of merit.
It leaves world number one Michael van Gerwen as the raging hot favourite to once again win the Premier League, and with his main rival gone, it’s hard to see how MVG will fail to win the title for the fourth time in a row. Peter Wright hasn’t been at his best and Rob Cross has struggled at times to match the hype following his World Championship win last year. Perhaps MVG’s biggest threat will come from Michael Smith. He’s the one on the rise and his game is well suited to the fast-paced format of the Premier League.
Others in the Premier League this season include Daryl Gurney, Gerwyn Price and Mensur Suljovic who will be looking to improve on their debut season last year, while James Wade makes his return to the Premier League on the back of a strong 2018.
Unfortunately the price on Michael van Gerwen to win is now pretty skinny. You could find $2.20 around before Anderson’s withdrawal, but now the best appears to be $1.67 at Ladbrokes. It's not a great price, but it's impossible to tip anything else.
If you’re looking for some more value then I don’t mind the price on James Wade to reach the semi-finals. The top three appear to be MVG, Smith and Cross, while we can rule out Barney and Price based on their recent form. That leaves Wade contending with Suljovic, Wright and Gurney for that last semi-final spot. Wade has been in great form and has the experience edge on his rivals on the Premier League stage. I think he can bounce back with a big showing and we’re getting a good value price on a semi-final spot.
Week 1 of the Premier League often offers some good prices, but it can be tricky to know what sort of form players are carrying into the event.
I really like James Wade to kick off with a win against Barney in the opening match. It’s a big challenge for Barney to get himself up for his farewell tour, and I just think that Wade is back to being “The Machine” and should get the points. It's our best bet of the night. I also like the look of the under 4.5 180s market at $2.10.
I expect Gerwyn Price to be better this season after a poor showing last year, but I still think Daryl Gurney is ahead of him and should win here. However given the unknowns of each player’s form at the moment, it’s hard to make a strong case for a match bet. I do like Gurney on the 180s however, and happy for a small bet there.
Mensur Suljovic takes on “contender” Chris Dobey in the third match and if Mensur is serious about Premier League this season, he needs to get away with a win here. The price is just too short for a bet however.
The MVG vs Smith match will be an absolute cracker and I really hope that Smith can keep it close to ensure some spirited competition for the world number one this season. The +2.5 leg line for Smith looks tempting.
The final match is Wright vs Cross which looks like another great match. Lean towards Cross and the $2.40 to win looks appealing, but this one could easily go the distance.
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