The Premier League road-show heads to Newcastle’s Metro Radio Arena for week two of the Betway Premier League on Thursday. Gary Anderson will return to action after missing the opening week through illness, whilst Michael van Gerwen and Phil Taylor go in search of their first points of the 2016 season.
Michael Smith v James Wade
Michael Smith was set to face Robert Thornton in Newcastle this evening, but on Thursday morning, it was announced that Thornton would miss week two through illness, meaning James Wade plays twice, and takes on ‘Bully-Boy’ in tonight’s opener.
Smith endured a chastening Premier League debut in Leeds last week, losing heavily against both Peter Wright and Adrian Lewis. Smith was forced to play twice due to Gary Anderson being unwell and ‘Bully-Boy’ struggled to produce the goods, losing 7-2 to Wright and 7-1 to Lewis.
Wade enjoyed a dream start to his Premier League campaign, claiming two points against Michael van Gerwen. Wade admitted that he viewed this victory as two bonus points, because the majority of players will struggle to get anything from ‘The Green Machine’ this year.
Both players took part in the three UK Open qualifiers last weekend, although they enjoyed differing fortunes. Smith certainly regained some confidence following two quarter-final appearances, which included an astounding 132.62 average in his second-round win over Jermaine Wattimena in Sunday’s qualifier.
Wade’s weekend was less successful. Whilst he reached the last 16 in Sunday’s qualifier, he was knocked out in the opening round on both Friday and Saturday, although I don’t think this will have any influence on James’ mindset or performance tonight.
This could be a testing evening for James however, as he’s had very little notice about playing twice. He knows he faces Phil Taylor later on, so subconsciously, he may be attempting to conserve energy and focus for that match, but he can’t afford to do so.
Wade needs to make a purposeful start and put Smith under pressure from the outset. If he does so, I can see ‘The Machine’ triumphing. You have to feel for Smith. He was forced to play twice on his debut last week, and now his opponent has changed just a matter of hours before he takes to the oche. It’s hardly been plain-sailing for Michael thus far.
Prediction: Smith 5-7 Wade
Raymond van Barneveld v Peter Wright
Raymond and Peter both enjoyed fantastic starts to their campaigns, with 7-2 victories over Phil Taylor and Michael Smith respectively in Leeds last week.
van Barneveld averaged 103.60 in defeating his old rival Taylor, posting a sensational 78% checkout ratio and missing just two doubles in the entire contest. Snakebite was also impressive against Michael Smith. The Scot averaged 99, and whilst the St Helen’s ace didn’t perform to his ability, Wright was extremely professional.
Van Barneveld’s incredible Premier League record is criminally under-estimated. Only twice in ten years has Barney failed to reach the play-offs, and he’s finished above Phil Taylor in the league phase for three years in succession. Wright was relegated from last year’s competition, but I think he’s well-placed to secure a top-four spot for the first time in 2016.
Wright’s biggest strength is his consistency. He very rarely has an indifferent game and it takes a top-quality performance to beat him. However, van Barneveld is undoubtedly capable of producing just that. He relishes the big occasion and he’s unbeaten in his last nine Premier League group-phase fixtures.
I believe this will be an extremely close encounter that’s decided on either a moment of genius, or an uncharacteristic error. Both players have been finishing magnificently over recent months, and whilst the bookmakers have Wright as clear favourite, I’m struggling to separate both men.
Prediction: van Barneveld 6-6 Wright
Adrian Lewis v Dave Chisnall
This has all the ingredients to be a pulsating battle. Lewis and Chisnall are two of the most mercurial talents in the PDC; both are full of confidence and throwing tremendously well.
The pair recorded thumping victories last week; Lewis defeated an under-par Michael Smith 7-1, whilst Chisnall whitewashed an abject Robert Thornton, so they will enter Newcastle full of confidence.
Lewis and Chisnall were both present in Wigan over the weekend, as they battled it out in the opening three UK Open qualifiers. Chisnall recorded three successive last 16 appearances, which included a 6-4 win over Michael van Gerwen on Friday.
However, Jackpot’s weekend performances were mightily impressive. The two-time world champion won Friday’s event with a 6-2 thumping of Phil Taylor in the final, and he replicated this victory over Taylor on Saturday, before going down to van Gerwen in the quarter-finals.
Adrian’s indifferent Premier League record remains a mystery. He has reached the play-offs just twice in the last nine years, and whilst he got off to the perfect start last week, a similar thing happened twelve months ago. Lewis thrashed Raymond van Barneveld 7-1 with a 113 average on the opening night in 2015, but he failed to record another victory until week 9, so he’ll be hoping there’s no repeat this time around.
Chisnall’s incredible 2015 campaign was career-defining. He has always possessed great ability, but his consistency had been repeatedly questioned. However, he demonstrated last year that he has all the tools to succeed. I expect this to be a cracking battle with a barrage of 180’s, but I think Chisnall will clinch his third consecutive PL win over Lewis.
Prediction: Lewis 5-7 Chisnall
Gary Anderson v Michael van Gerwen
Michael van Gerwen suffered a shock opening night defeat to James Wade in Leeds last Thursday, but it was the manner of his defeat which was most surprising. Wade is a top-class player and over a relatively short format, any result is possible. Yet, van Gerwen was in complete command at 3-0 up before he suddenly capitulated and relinquished control.
Van Gerwen has that air of invincibility about him; the world number one has won 5 of the last 6 televised tournaments, winning 29 out of his last 30 TV clashes prior to last week’s opener against Wade. MvG is also an ominous front-runner, therefore it was staggering to see the Dutchman throw away such a commanding lead.
Michael’s doubling was very poor against ‘The Machine’, but he bounced back by enjoying a profitable weekend in Wigan when competing in the UK Open qualifiers. Van Gerwen won Saturday’s qualifier in comprehensive fashion, before reaching Sunday’s final, losing 6-2 to Phil Taylor.
Gary Anderson was ruled out of last week’s opening night through illness, but fortunately the reigning world champion is fit enough to return in Newcastle. However, it remains to be seen whether Gary is firing on all cylinders, which he’ll need to be if he’s to overcome van Gerwen.
In my opinion, along with Raymond van Barneveld, Gary is one of the few players who relishes the prospect of facing van Gerwen on the big stage. This was illustrated by his semi-final win against van Gerwen in the 2015 World Championships, as well as his triumph in last year’s Premier League final.
It seems somewhat illogical to back against the world champion and reigning Premier League champion, but Anderson’s last appearance came at the Masters, where he lost in the opening round to Vincent van der Voort, which means he’s lacking in competitive match sharpness. Van Gerwen will be desperate to bounce back from last week’s disappointment with a victory, and I think he’ll do just that.
Prediction: Anderson 4-7 Van Gerwen
James Wade v Phil Taylor
Both players experienced very contrasting emotions in Leeds last week. Wade secured a fantastic victory over Michael van Gerwen, whilst Taylor produced a disappointing display as he was thumped by a clinical Raymond van Barneveld.
Despite this, Taylor enjoyed a confidence-boosting weekend in Wigan at the UK Open qualifiers. After losing 6-2 in Friday’s final to Adrian Lewis, ‘The Power’ went one step better on Sunday, beating van Gerwen 6-2 to claim the £10,000 winner’s cheque, which sees Taylor top the UK Open Order of Merit alongside van Gerwen.
By comparison, Wade struggled at the Robin Park Tennis Centre. He suffered successive opening-round exits on Friday and Saturday, but rectified matters by reaching the last 16 in Sunday’s third qualifier.
Whilst MvG wasn’t at his explosive best last week, Wade deserves immense credit for his fightback, where he posted five maximums and two ton-plus finishes to win seven of the remaining eight legs. Wade’s tenacity and character should not be under-estimated, but he’ll need similar resolve to defeat ‘The Power’.
Taylor won both Premier League clashes between the pair last year, but Wade has won 3 of their last 5 major TV meetings, including notable victories at the World Matchplay and World Grand-Prix.
Prior to Wade’s victory over Taylor at the 2014 World Grand-Prix, the 16-time world champion was unbeaten in his last 20 meetings against the left-hander. Therefore, their recent head-to-head record suggests that the fear factor surrounding Taylor is diminishing.
Wade has undoubtedly improved on the 180 count; but I still expect Taylor to monopolise the scoring stakes. Nevertheless, Wade’s finishing has always been one of his greatest qualities; if he can produce a good success rate on finishes ranging from 80-130, I think he could certainly claim a point. If not, Taylor may have the edge.
Prediction: Wade 6-6 Taylor