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