The Premier League returned with a bang in Milton Keynes on Tuesday evening, as Michael van Gerwen moved top of the table with a thumping win over Rob Cross, whilst Gary Anderson produced a spectacular display to topple Michael Smith.
Following a five-month hiatus, the world’s elite played out a thrilling night of action behind closed doors at the Marshall Arena, as Daryl Gurney kept his hopes of survival firmly alive with a 7-2 victory over a struggling Chris Dobey.
Nathan Aspinall moved up to third with a hard-fought win over world No 3 Gerwyn Price, whilst Glen Durrant fought back from 6-4 behind to salvage a point against world champion Peter Wright in the evening’s finale.
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August 26, 2020, 6:30pm
There are just three points separating the league’s top six and with the race for the play-offs shaping up nicely, Sky Sports’ resident expert Wayne Mardle gave his top four predictions prior to the tournament’s resumption…
1st – Michael van Gerwen
When you look back over the years, he has been in trouble so many times, and gone on to win the league phase. He should never have won it last year, Rob Cross should have won it.
Chizzy [Dave Chisnall] I think was 56 points away from topping the league in 2015. That is how narrow the margins are that you’re playing with here.
We all know I am a Michael van Gerwen fan. I think he is just brilliant to watch. People want to stop doing what they’re doing to come and watch him. That’s how special he is for the sport.
I’ve made my mind up that Michael is going to run riot, not through averaging 110 every game, but just by being difficult to beat.
Michael van Gerwen playing at 80% is still the best player in the world. I think he just plays at 80% and maybe ups it every now and again.
I am not going to say he coasts to wins because he doesn’t coast to wins anymore, but he’s never failed to top the table and I think he’ll win the league phase.
2nd – Michael Smith
I think Michael Smith could play himself into form because he is not in great form.
I thought it was interesting – he has mentioned recently ‘I’ve been practising my doubles’ – the positive is he’s practising his doubles, the negative is why have you neglected them anyway?
However, at least he is seeing his Achilles heel and if he can stop walking with the last dart, he’ll have a great chance of making the play-offs, because he’s in fine fettle – he’s in a good spot in the Premier League.
I don’t ever predict he is going to fail in anything. I am a big Michael Smith fan and he was sitting there in third spot before the restart, so if he can consolidate third or maybe even climb up to second, then job done for him.
I’m still in the camp that most of the players are going to go through peaks and troughs – in fact all of them. I think it’s a really interesting time.
3rd – Glen Durrant
The bookmakers have more or less written him off. Bearing in mind he was four points ahead of Cross and Gerwyn Price, who could be dragged into the relegation battle, they’re making those two favourite over Durrant to win it.
The reason why he does get overlooked is because he’s just very solid in every single aspect of the game. He’s not quick, he’s not going to hit the most 180s in a tournament but what he does, is he does everything well.
If he hits a 59 one visit, he’s good for a ton or 140 the next. He’s very very good under pressure. His doubling as we know has been the catalyst for him to be so successful so far.
He will feel there was an opportunity missed at the Matchplay, but Glen – a bit like Price – he just ploughs on. It’s all about the next event.
He beat Peter Wright in that Matchplay just gone and it was a brilliant game. It really was one of the most enjoyable games of the tournament and I just think he gets overlooked because he’s not a ‘sexy’ player is he?
He has not got the speed and fluency of Van Gerwen, he’s not got the excitement behind him of Price. He just does everything really well and I think he’ll get into the play-offs on debut – good for him.
4th – Peter Wright
You don’t know what you’re going to get from Peter at the moment. I don’t think he gets bored, I don’t think he’s looking for perfection. He is looking for something that makes him happy game-to-game, day-to-day with darts.
If you are one of those that wants to say: ‘Hold on, that might help’. They practice and it helps them for that day and he gets excited about it, and then a couple of days later he drops the idea.
We know that happens with his darts because he’s been through all shapes and sizes. From such a consistent type, we’re getting inconsistent performances right now and I think it is so tough to call.
He is the world champ and he hasn’t had the chance to milk it. He hasn’t had the chance to show off the Sid Waddell Trophy, he hasn’t had the chance to remind everyone that he is the world champ.
I’m not saying he has been forgotten about, far from it. Not in my mind anyway, but I just feel sorry for him. I feel this year people are writing it off and for him being world champ, it’s all about timing isn’t it?
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