Welcome back to OpenOdds’ preview of Darts’ Premier League. With four weeks gone, we’re as close to a half-way point as the first phase of the competition gets (in truth, it will be passed at some point during Nathan Aspinall’s meeting with Peter Wright on Thursday evening, but we digress). A quick look at the table shows us that yep, MvG is back on top – but given the right mix of results on Night Five, any one of six players could lead the league going into the second half of the opening section.
We will take a look at the main matches as the competition moves on to Exeter. Who’s coming under pressure, who could overhaul van Gerwen at the head of the table, and what can we expect from this week’s invited challenger, Luke Humphries? What can we learn from Night Four in Dublin? All will be answered along with a look at the best tips available at the leading bookmakers.
MvG shrugs off home favourite to take league lead
Ireland’s William O’Connor drew the short straw among this season’s challengers, as his Premier League bow in front of a home crowd placed him in direct competition with Michael van Gerwen. In the end, the home hope certainly didn’t disgrace himself, but the Dutch star took the points and headed back to the top of the table with a 7-4 win. The players split the first six legs before MvG found another level – but a valuable learning experience will have been banked by O’Connor.
MvG now sits above Nathan Aspinall by virtue of Legs Won Against Throw and can consolidate his lead with a win over Michael Smith in Devon. The Englishman is unlikely to let the world number one have it all his own way, however, having underlined a hard-fought win over Daryl Gurney with the tournament’s first nine-dart finish since 2017. Smith never really got off the mark in last year’s Premier League, but sits just a point behind the leaders at present, and could take top spot with a win. Unibet have the defending champion as ½ favourite, but stranger things have happened than Smith (4/1) overturning the odds in the night’s closing match.
Gurney loses again, now under real pressure
There were times last season when Daryl Gurney looked like he might have a chance to push the league’s very best, defeating MvG twice in league play and making the play-offs. Since the end of the 2019 tournament, however, he has struggled to make anything like the impact we were beginning to expect – and through the first four weeks of this season’s Premier League, he has just one point. A 7-5 reverse at the hands of Smith has left the Northern Ireland darter two points behind the nearest competitors, unmoored at the bottom of the table.
One of those competitors is Rob Cross, who provides the opposition for Gurney in Exeter. Cross has experienced his own issues with form, exited the World Championships before Christmas, and was on the losing side against Gary Anderson in Dublin. Both he and the Mallusk man are capable of better than they have been showing so far, and it’s up to at least one of them to show it here. Perhaps because he needs it more, we’d back Gurney at 17/10 with 888sport to take the points – but if he doesn’t, he can probably start looking at holiday brochures for the duration of phase two.
Anderson looks to consolidate against challenger
Since pulling out of last season’s Premier League with a back injury, Gary Anderson has been quietly performing like a player with designs on getting back to the top. He’s become a World Cup winner in the last 12 months, and is back competing for a title he won in 2011 and 2015 – and he sits a single point behind van Gerwen and Aspinall at the top end of the table. Better yet, he’s the one facing a challenger this week; the previous thirteen matches involving a challenger have never ended in an upset win, so Anderson has that going for him.
He should – and no doubt will – avoid complacency, however, as this week’s challenger is Luke Humphries, who currently holds the PDC World Youth title, reached the last eight in the grown-up version and who was the challenger on Night Four last year, playing Gerwyn Price to a 6-6 standstill. He will certainly provide Anderson with a real test here, and the value bet may even be another draw, which can be backed at 7/2 with William Hill. It probably won’t be very long until Humphries is playing in this tournament under his own steam and accumulating points; this match could be the runaway classic of the night.