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Premier League Darts: Table-toppers to face off in Glasgow

High flyers Michael van Gerwen and Dave Chisnall are set to face off in a top-of-the-table clash on the seventh night of the Premier League at the SSE Hydro in Glasgow.

Old foes Raymond van Barneveld and Phil Taylor meet in the third game of the evening with the struggling Dutchman seeking to stave off relegation in a fortnight’s time.

Gary Anderson will play his first match in Scotland fas world champion when he takes on last-placed Kim Huybrechts while Stephen Bunting goes in search of a third consecutive win against Peter Wright.

Elsewhere, James Wade looks to strengthen his bid for the playoffs in his match with Adrian Lewis – the latter is without a victory in the competition since the opening night.

Dave Chisnall v Michael van Gerwen 

Chisnall’s stint as league leader was short-lived following his loss to Bunting in Nottingham while van Gerwen eventually eased to a 7-3 win against Taylor with an average in excess of 107.

The Dutchman won both of their meetings in last year’s Premier League and is currently on a seven-match winning streak against Chisnall – the St Helens thrower’s last triumph came at the 2013 World Grand Prix. However, their most recent meeting at the Masters in January went to a deciding leg, with van Gerwen needing a 110 average to prevail in an incredible contest.

Inconsistent scoring from Chisnall led to his demise last week and failure to correct this could see him punished again. The world number one has significantly improved his treble-hitting in 2015, a trait that has afforded him more opportunities at doubles, and fewer for his opponents. Chisnall will need to score heavily to keep it close.

Prediction: van Gerwen 7-4 Chisnall

Raymond van Barneveld v Phil Taylor 

Van Barneveld’s defeat to Wade last Thursday has left the defending champion in a perilous position, and his troubles could get worse when he takes on arch-rival Taylor in Glasgow, who is also looking to bounce back after losing a week ago.

The Dutchman secured a first television victory over his nemesis in six years in last year’s semi-final but has been a pale shadow of his former self over recent months, regularly appearing uninterested on stage, and unsure whether to wear glasses or not. Meanwhile, Taylor has produced some up-and-down performances of late but has generally seemed comfortable in the Premier League – where he has played his best.

Much depends on which van Barneveld turns up and if the five-time world champion can start well, this will be a tight affair. A typical Scottish darts crowd can be expected which has a tendency to be anti-English, and boisterous audiences can bother Taylor. But judging on each other’s results this year, and their head-to-head record over the past few seasons, the Englishman should come through comfortably and keep pressure on those ahead of him.

Prediction: Taylor 7-3 van Barneveld

Kim Huybrechts v Gary Anderson

A raucous welcoming for Anderson is guaranteed as he throws his first arrows in his native Scotland as a world champion and after hammering Lewis with a 109 average he starts as favourite against the improving Huybrechts.

The Belgian was narrowly edged out by Wright in Nottingham and finds himself rock-bottom in the league table with just three weeks remaining before two players are eliminated.The two have never clashed on TV before but Anderson holds a 10-4 advantage in their matches on the floor. The Scot is also riding high after claiming a Players Championship win at the weekend in  Barnsley.

An expectant Glasgow could create nerves for Anderson who has been fallible in his home country in the past, and Huybrechts will cash in if given chances. The world champion has little to fear though, and he should cement his position in the top four with two points here.

Prediction: Anderson 7-3 Huybrechts

James Wade v Adrian Lewis 

These two will open the evening’s proceedings and a poor night for Lewis could potentially see him slip into the bottom two. A win over van Barneveld on week six has moved him into the top half of the table, while Lewis has not won in five games.

Wade, fresh from a strong weekend in Barnsley – he won one Players Championship and reached the final of the other – is enjoying a purple patch at the moment and another success here will confirm his playoff credentials. Lewis used a new darts for the first time last week and despite being thrashed by Anderson he did manage an average nigh on 104, which suggests they are worth sticking with.

The two’s extensive rivalry has seen them play 42 times but Wade holds a 6-2 lead in their Premier League encounters – they have also drawn twice. There isn’t too much to choose between them but their records in this competition indicate Wade nicking a tight one.

Prediction: Wade 7-5 Lewis

Peter Wright v Stephen Bunting

After a torrid start Wright has gone unbeaten in his last four outings – winning his first match of the tournament last week – and looks to have finally found an optimum setup with his darts. Bunting has also reversed a poor period, with wins in his last two firing him up into the mid-table.

Wright, who like Anderson is playing on home turf, whitewashed Bunting 10-0 at the UK Open earlier this month but he has lost their other three matches on TV. Both have five points to their name after six weeks, making this an important match as the winner will move close to the top four, while the loser could yet get dragged down into a relegation battle.

This could be the closest bout of the evening with both likely to average around 100, going by the last fortnight. Their scoring should be evenly matched, meaning double-hitting will be even more crucial than normal. The draw is a firm possibility.

Prediction: Peter Wright 6-6 Stephen Bunting

Premier League Darts: Chisnall and Anderson to clash in Exeter

Dave Chisnall will attempt to continue his impressive start to this year’s Premier League when he takes on Gary Anderson on week five of this year’s tournament at the Westpoint Arena in Exeter, on Thursday night.

In a repeat of last year’s world final, Michael van Gerwen goes up against Peter Wright, while James Wade seeks a third-straight win over Phil Taylor on television.

Raymond van Barneveld will look to strengthen his defence of his title against newcomer Kim Huybrechts in the first match of the evening.

In the night’s other battle, Adrian Lewis looks to push on from his  fiery draw with van Gerwen in Belfast, as he plays a struggling Stephen Bunting who has just one point to his name.

Dave Chisnall v Gary Anderson

Chisnall and Anderson have been given top billing for their Devon encounter, fittingly considering their strong starts to the competition.

The St Helens thrower has accumulated seven points from his first four matches – leaving him joint-top with van Gerwen – in a run that has included wins over van Barneveld and Wright. Meanwhile, Anderson is lying third in the table with six points, courtesy of three wins and one loss.

After a flaky performance in week three against van Gerwen, Anderson bounced back with a 7-4 defeat of James Wade in week four. The world champion has beaten Chisnall five out of six times, with two triumphs in the Premier League.

However, ‘Chizzy’ is producing some of the best darts of his PDC career at the moment, demonstrating a much greater proficiency on his doubles, and this progress culminated last week with his win over Kim Huybrechts where he posted an average of 107.

The Scot is based in neighbouring county Somerset and should have the home support, which could play a factor as the crowd managed to irk Chisnall during his match with van Barneveld in Bournemouth three weeks ago. But his form has been strong and if he throws well again, trying to pick a fight would be foolish.

The quick pace should suit both and this will be a high-scoring affair . In a battle between two of the league’s early form horses, a draw would come as no surprise.

Prediction: Chisnall 6-6 Anderson

James Wade v Phil Taylor 

Taylor finds himself in a rather peculiar position ahead of his match with Wade, in that he has lost to him in their last two TV meetings. A major contrast to the stranglehold the 16-time world champion has traditionally imposed in front of the television cameras – ‘The Machine’ had previously never defeated Taylor in a TV knockout match.

Anderson is the only player in PDC history to notch three consecutive wins over ‘The Power’ on TV – a currently active streak – a feat Wade can emulate by winning this match.

After an opening night defeat, Taylor has risen to fourth in the table but his failure to beat Wright last Thursday has stemmed his momentum somewhat. Wade’s first loss of the tournament came against Anderson in Belfast but he has only recorded one victory in the first four weeks.

A dogged Wade has shown himself to be tough to beat but he can be vulnerable when his opponent scores heavily. Taylor’s scoring has been mixed so far but he looked imperious in his dispatching of Lewis a few weeks ago.

Taylor still has the edge more often than not when he takes to the oche, but the gap has narrowed and he is more regularly punished now for his off-colour performances. But taking into account their past few matches – and Taylor’s superior averages – Wade will need to be somewhere near his best to prevent his nemesis taking two points.

Prediction: Taylor 7-3 Wade

Peter Wright v Michael van Gerwen

Van Gerwen succumbed sole possession of top spot following his draw with Lewis in Belfast, while Wright secured a fighting point against Taylor to kick-start his campaign.

The Dutchman heads in to the contest as the heavy favourite having beaten his opponent in all eight of their televised meetings. Wright has also lost four times in a row to van Gerwen in all competition, with his last win coming at a UK Open Qualifier in February 2014.

Current form also suggests there is only one winner here with van Gerwen shooting a plethora of 105-plus averages since being dethroned as world champion in January – a period which included a run of five titles from six tournaments.

On last week’s evidence, Wright should produce a respectable performance.  He has seemingly – after much tinkering with the set-up – found a more fruitful throwing combination, which allowed him to manage a draw against Taylor –  a far-cry from some of his earlier efforts in the season.

Still, he will have to significantly up his level again to challenge the world number one, whose brutal scoring is blitzing everyone this year. When at his peak, all of his rivals have proven mere cannon-fodder.

Prediction: van Gerwen 7-3 Wright

Adrian Lewis v Stephen Bunting

Over his Premier League career, Lewis’ only consistency has been his inconsistency, and it’s a trend he is continuing so far in this year’s edition, with one win, one defeat, and two draws from four games. He has the chance to push up the table on Thursday though when he plays Stephen Bunting, who lies at the foot of the table with a solitary point.

Bunting has failed to settle in his first Premier League, suffering three straight losses and he faces being cut adrift if he doesn’t arrest the slide soon. With this plight, it could make Lewis either the best or worst opponent. The two-time world champion was brilliant in averaging 114 to beat van Barneveld in week one, but a fortnight later he could only muster 92 in a draw with Huybrechts.

Nevertheless, even the latter Lewis may still see off Bunting. Guilty of panicking in his matches, and often conceding early leads, the Liverpudlian is low on confidence and looks to have forgotten how to win. The Premier League is an unforgiving format, as the likes of Mark Webster and Wes Newton have previously found out. Unless he relaxes and stops fighting himself, the likelihood of him fighting his adversary on the oche is minute.

Lewis was much-improved in his edgy fixture with van Gerwen a week ago but spurned a 6-4 lead to only share the spoils. Bunting, meanwhile, fell behind early against van Barneveld and lagged behind throughout the match to lose 7-4.

There is always an element of doubt with the enigmatic Lewis, but this match could well be lost by the inferiority of Bunting’s arrows, as opposed to the superiority of his.

Prediction: Lewis 7-2 Bunting

Raymond van Barneveld v Kim Huybrechts 

Few lose a match when averaging 107 but Huybrechts was consigned to a third defeat in four by Chisnall last time out despite doing just that. Less convincingly, van Barneveld clung on to beat Bunting – a match where his mentality appeared the greatest burden.

Their last showings make this Benelux bout all the more intriguing. The Belgian performed to a higher standard than the Dutchman in their respective matches, but it was the Dutchman who walked off with two points while the Belgian left empty-handed.

Van Barneveld’s defence of his Premier League title has stuttered and spluttered so far but his win over Bunting has hoisted him into the mix and he will be favoured to trump Huybrechts who is winless as of yet in his debut season.

The defending champion has looked a tad vulnerable – sometimes donning spectacles, other times going without. He collapsed from 5-1 up against Wright and also missed clumps of doubles when playing Chisnall. If the Belgian can churn out a solid 100 average game he will cause problems. Of course, van Barneveld has more in the tank but hasn’t been able to sustain his hot streaks for more than a handful of legs.

Interestingly, Huybrechts has won all six of their previous encounters, however the two have never met before on TV.

Until he nails a first win, Huybrechts will be nervous and he can ill-afford another pointless evening, but he seems to have settled into the event over the past couple of weeks. Van Barneveld has done nothing to indicate he will blow his opponent away and therefore, a draw or perhaps even a Huybrechts win could be on the cards.

Prediction: van Barneveld 6-6 Huybrechts

Preview: 2015 Betway Premier League Darts – Week One

No sooner has the last tournament left us, the next one is upon us. The PDC tree is bearing much fruit as far as exposure is concerned and Thursday marks the start of this year’s Premier League – a 16-week jamboree which kicks off in Leeds before concluding at London’s O2 Arena in late May.

Participating in the 10-man event include the current top four in the PDC Order of Merit – Michael van Gerwen, Phil Taylor, newly-crowned world champion Gary Anderson and Adrian Lewis. They are joined by defending champion Raymond van Barneveld, Peter Wright, and Dave Chisnall, while James Wade makes a return following a one-year absence.

This year’s edition also sees two new debutants in the form of 2014 BDO World Champion, Stephen Bunting, and the improving Kim Huybrechts.

Here is my preview for the first five 12-leg match-ups taking place at Leeds’ First Direct Arena.

Dave Chisnall v Peter Wright

Chisnall and Wright are due to kick off the action and both will be keen to leave an early mark as the tournament gets under way. Chizzy showed some devastating form at last weekend’s Masters in Milton Keynes, averaging over 106 to defeat Robert Thornton before being denied in an incredible 10-9 contest against van Gerwen who recorded an average in excess of 110.

Meanwhile, Wright was steady, but also bowed out in the quarter-finals to Adrian Lewis. This should be a close encounter but if Chisnall can reproduce his standard from the weekend, his scoring power should be enough to nick it.

Raymond van Barneveld v Adrian Lewis

Meeting for the first time since van Barneveld’s dramatic 4-3 win at this year’s world championship, the pair of them have reasons to fancy their chances ahead of this bout. The Dutchman reached the final of the Masters, while Lewis also performed well, making the semis – with both being halted by van Gerwen.

Van Barneveld holds a 9-3 lead in their Premier League meetings with two draws and hasn’t lost to the Englishman in the competition since 2012.  However, recent history suggests there isn’t much between the two and the draw seems a decent shout here.

Kim Huybrechts v Michael van Gerwen

These two played one of the more memorable matches of 2014 at the Grand Slam of Darts with an inspired Huybrechts pinning a nine-dart finish as he overpowered van Gerwen. The latter was unstoppable at the Masters though, notching two 110+ averages as he stormed to another television title.

Huybrechts was absent at the Masters – virtue of not being in the top 16 – and may come into his first Premier League match slightly cold. The fiery Belgian should still be primed for battle though, yet I expect the world number one will have a bit too much here and run out a relatively comfortable winner – as comfortable as a first-to-7-legs match can be, anyway.

Gary Anderson v Phil Taylor

Anderson is in the peculiar position of having consecutive triumphs on TV over Taylor, with victories at the Players Championship in December and more significantly, the world championship final at Alexandra Palace last month. The Scot was a tad rusty at the Masters but still managed to make the last-four – testament to his form nowadays. Taylor was bounced out in the first round by Terry Jenkins but the well-documented death of his mother means it’s perhaps not the shock it would otherwise be.

Given Anderson’s success of late, and Taylor’s regular malaise in the opening Premier League fixtures, I predict the Flying Scotsman to secure a third-straight win over The Power in front of the cameras.

Stephen Bunting v James Wade

The ease of Bunting’s win over Wade at Ally Pally was one of the more surprising stories of the championship and the two are set to clash again in the final match of the opening night. Wade has proven to be Bunting’s bunny over the past 12 months, with the Bullet prevailing in all four of their matches.

Wade’s Premier League experience means he won’t be phased by the huge crowds, yet little has bothered Bunting since he made the switch from the BDO after winning the Lakeside World Championship in early 2014. I’m going for Bunting to snatch the two points on debut.