Welcome back to OpenOdds’ Darts Round Up! This week we will be having a look back at a night of Premier League action which saw the lead change hands again, as well as some pivotal action in the middle and at the bottom of the table. We’ll look ahead to a week of action that sees the top four and the bottom four facing off in individual matches which could have a huge say in the final shape of the league.
Of course, we’ll also have a look at the best odds from the bookmakers ahead of these pivotal games. With four weeks to go before the knockout rounds, the results of this week’s games could guarantee play-off spots for some players and ensure definitively that others are playing for pride alone. With a mere two points separating third from sixth, we’ll also see this week just how secure a place in the playoffs is for anyone not called Michael van Gerwen or Rob Cross.
So, first things first – what’s the big news from Cardiff?
Cross meets his match
Rob Cross came into the Thursday night action with a lead over van Gerwen in the table – ahead by a single point, he had the chance to extend the gap if he managed to out-dart the Dutch prodigy. He got off to a solid start, too, winning the first two legs. He then, unfortunately, lost the last eight against an opponent in exceptional form, MvG delivering an average of more than 107 on his visits to the oche. The upshot of a humbling evening for Cross is that he now sits a point behind his rival, with a leg difference that is sixteen worse than van Gerwen thanks to a twelve-leg swing.
There is every chance of Cross ending up atop the table after Week 16 of Premier League play; each player has four more matches and the lead could change hands a few times before the final standings are known. However, the big message for the 28-year-old is that he’ll likely need to play van Gerwen again if he’s to become Premier League champion – and in two meetings, the English star has taken just four legs off his title rival; that’s anything but champion’s form. This week, Cross is up against Gerwyn Price. In a second-plays-fourth clash, you can find 9/10 odds from Unibet on “Voltage” winning – that’s probably decent value.
Smith falls further adrift
Michael Smith produced some of his best darts just before the Round Nine cut-off to ensure that it was Raymond van Barneveld, and not Smith, who went home after the relegation break. However, based on his form since then, it’s easy to feel that the World Championship runner-up shouldn’t have bothered. Last week brought Smith up against Gerwyn Price, who was playing in front of his home crowd in Cardiff. It was Price who emerged with the win, by a margin of 8-5, and solidified his place in the top four.
Smith now faces Mensur Suljovic and, if he loses to the Austrian, will become the first player definitively eliminated from contention for the play-offs. Suljovic is available at 6/4 with Betway and, when the players met before, defeated the Englishman by seven legs to two. Few would bet against Suljovic, who still has a real shot at the play-offs, to repeat that crushing victory and consign Smith to three pleasant, but ultimately futile trips to Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds. Weirdly, the player in last place is considered favourite by some bookmakers; we’d be lying if we said we could understand why.
Wade up for a repeat?
James Wade is the man currently in third place, a slot he held onto without any real stress in an 8-2 walloping of Peter Wright, who’s well-positioned to join Smith as a glorified sight-seer for the remainder of the tournament. The victory didn’t demand much from Wade, who threw confidently without really over-extending himself – it’s now up to the player to decide whether that easy night was a good thing ahead of the toughest test in his calendar – this week’s match against table-topper van Gerwen.
The last time the two met, Wade emerged with the points, winning 7-3 in Week Four. Another win would bring him to within two points of van Gerwen and leave open the possibility of topping the table at the close of league play. Coral have Wade priced at 4/1 to beat the tournament favourite again – which, given that MvG has been far from perfect in Premier League action, may be a bet worth taking.
Last chance saloon for Gurney?
The up-and-down Premier League season experienced by Daryl Gurney took another downturn in Cardiff, as the Northern Irishman fell 8-5 to Mensur Suljovic. This result left Gurney on 12 points – comfortably ahead of cellar-dwellers Wright and Smith, but two adrift of the Wade-Price-Suljovic chasing group. With time running out, the Mallusk man realistically needs a win in this week’s action to have any realistic chance of playing knock-out darts at the O2 in May. Fortunately, the fixture computer has given him a showdown with Peter Wright.
Given that Wright has lost four of his last five – and drawn the other one against fellow struggler Smith, Gurney could hardly have asked for a kinder draw. He’s 6/5 with BetVictor to see off a player who has been lacking confidence; Wright changed his darts mid-match while losing to James Wade, which is a sure sign of a player looking for a change in luck. If you can find an odds boost on Gurney, grab it with both hands because we don’t see Wright suddenly roaring back into form this week.