By Josh Powell | Premier League Darts
The Darts Premier League has had a makeover and the sport’s most exciting competition just got even better. Instead of eight of the world’s best players battling it out over 15 weeks to determine a worthy Champion there will now be 10 players in the league.
The standard of darts last year was so mind-blowing, tournament organisers have expanded the Premier League format to feature five matches a night, each the best of 12 legs. After nine weeks the round robin will be complete and the bottom two players will be relegated, leaving eight players to battle it out for the remaining five weeks before the play-offs in London.
With the matches being a race to seven, your pick for the title will have to be quicker out of the blocks than a doped-up sprinter and that’s where the explosive ‘Mighty’ Michael van Gerwen comes in. The Dutchman is 11/4 to win the Darts Premier League and could be the one to side with on the back of his incredible last 12 months.
Unsurprisingly 16-time world champ and reigning king of darts Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor is the 2/1 favourite to win his seventh Premier League title but van Gerwen is hotly tipped to be the man to take Phil’s crown.
The two titans of tungsten met in the World Championship final at the Alexandra Palace in January and the two biggest names in darts battle it out in the show piece event on the opening night of the Premier League in Belfast.
On the biggest stage of them all at the Worlds, Taylor won 7-4 in sets, but the Premier League is very different because it is leg-play. If you break down that final to legs, MVG would have won 7-3 in a best of 12 and he is good value to get a result in a thrilling opening week.
Week One tips
Andy Hamilton v Rob Thornton: Both men were whitewashed by Phil Taylor at the Alexandra Palace and there’s little to separate them here. Thornton edges the head-to-head 6-4 but Andy Hamilton’s Premier League experience could be an advantage in what will be a tight opener. Draw – 10/3
James Wade v Wes Newton: James Wade made the semi-finals of the World Champs but is a slow starter and it took him until week four before he registered a win last year. Wade narrowly beat Newton at the Ally Pally but the opening 12 legs were shared 6-6 and Wes can nick it here. Newton – 13/8
Raymond van Barneveld v Gary Anderson: In the short format Anderson’s poor form on the doubles could be costly. The flying Scot will score heavily but in a race to seven he can’t afford to be missing his doubles. If Barney continues his World Championship form he wins. Van Barneveld – 11/10
Simon Whitlock v Adrian Lewis: The Wizard beat Lewis twice in the Premier League last year and leads the head-to-head 9-7. Jackpot will want to come out firing after losing his World Championship title but despite retaining the World Cup for England this month, Whitlock can beat him here. Whitlock – 5/4
Phil Taylor v Michael van Gerwen: The master v the young pretender. Is MVG the next big thing in darts? He beat The Power twice last year but lost out in the World Championship final despite leading 4-2. If Mighty Mike starts quickly again he can lay down a marker in week one. Van Gerwen – 17/10