Premier League of Darts – Finals Night, London
After 16 nights and 146 matches, the Premier League of Darts comes to an end on Thursday night, as the top four players from the final league table compete for the £250,000 top prize at the O2 in London. The semi-finals will be best of 19 legs, with the two winners facing each other over a best of 21 leg contest for the title. Both semi-finals will be intriguing affairs, first up World Number One Michael van Gerwen will play World Champion Rob Cross, with a match between good friends Michael Smith and Gary Anderson to follow.
Michael van Gerwen finished top of the league table for the sixth consecutive year, and from his five finals appearances he’s gone on to win the Premier League title on three occasions. Gary Anderson has only been to two finals nights, but has won the title on both occasions, including a win over Van Gerwen in the 2015 final. Michael Smith and Rob Cross are both making their debuts at a finals night, however there are health concerns surrounding both players.
Michael van Gerwen vs Rob Cross19:15
The opening game of the night at the O2 sees Michael van Gerwen take on Rob Cross. Van Gerwen qualified for finals night with relative ease, mainly thanks to winning nine of his first ten games in the competition, since then his Premier League form has dipped, and he’s recorded just two wins from his final six matches. Rob Cross has done well in his debut season in the Premier League, qualifying for finals night with a week to spare. His campaign started off slowly, losing his first two matches as the burden of being World Champion seemed to get the better of him. But Cross soon found his rhythm in the competition, winning eight of his next nine matches, and playing the level of darts that saw him triumph at Ally Pally in January. However, he has stumbled over the finish line in recent weeks, failing to win any of his final five matches in the competition, and that is a concern as he faces the World Number One. The two previous meetings between these two in the competition have comfortably gone the way of the Dutchman (7-2 both times) as van Gerwen tries to exact revenge for his World Championship defeat to Cross.
Van Gerwen’s form outside the Premier League has been excellent recently, despite not playing his best at the weekend he won his fourth European Tour title of the season. At that event there was a sense that he was treating it as a warm up to the Premier League finals night. Rob Cross was forced to pull out of the event in Zwolle due to a cartilage injury to his sternum, which has caused him discomfort for a few weeks now. This injury may explain his dip in form, ‘Voltage’ has made early exits to James Wade, Martin Schindler, Ryan Joyce and Gerwyn Price in recent European Tour and Players Championship events, and may be lacking in confidence coming into this one.
‘Mighty Mike’ knows what it takes to win the Premier League, is in better form and with an injury concern over Cross, everything is pointing to a comfortable van Gerwen victory. The Dutchman has spoken of his desire to win this event again, and he’s taken to overcome a 4.5 leg handicap and reach another Premier League final with something to spare.
Free Betting Tip: Michael van Gerwen -4.5 leg handicap
Michael Smith vs Gary Anderson20:15
The second semi-final features Michael Smith come up against his good friend and mentor Gary Anderson. Michael Smith has had a great Premier League season, a stark contrast to his first and only Premier League experience two years ago. Smith’s campaign couldn’t have started any better, winning his opening four matches, and seven of his first nine. The second phase of the competition has been mixed, with just two wins and two draws from his seven matches, but Smith deserves his place in the final four this season. Gary Anderson was the last player to qualify for finals night, following victory over MvG last week, and arguably comes here in better Premier League form than his three rivals. Anderson’s Premier League season started slowly as he struggled with back problems, restricting him to one win in his opening six matches. But once these injury concerns cleared up, Anderson was back on form, winning six of his next seven matches, and his victory last week ensured that he finished third in the league table. It’s honours even between these two in the Premier League so far this season, with Smith winning the first encounter on the opening night of the Premier League season 7-5, and Anderson hitting back 7-5 in week 11.
Smith is another player coming into this match with a health concern against his name. He has recently been diagnosed with pleurisy, and rather than rest up at the weekend, made the trip to Holland in an attempt to gain extra ranking points and qualify for the England team at the forthcoming World Cup of Darts. The trip proved to be fruitless as ‘BullyBoy’ lost 6-0 to Stephen Bunting in his opening match, his second whitewash in three matches. Anderson has opted not to take part in European Tour events this year and has concentrated on getting himself ready for the demands of the Premier League instead.
The second semi-final has similarities to the first; and it’s the player in better form, and who has the experience of winning the Premier League title who is favoured in this one. The Scotsman is a strong favourite to win the match, so instead he is taken to continue his better record in the maximums department, and fire in more 180s than his opponent.
Free Betting Tip: Gary Anderson most 180s