And then there were eight! The double-header of Premier League Darts in Rotterdam last week brought an end to the Contenders experiment, which has generally proven a success with spectators even if the nine selected players were unable to conjure up a single victory between them. Here are our top Premier League Darts 2019 Week Nine betting tips.
And there was also the fitting curtain call for Raymond van Barneveld on home soil. The Dutchman has been well below his best all season-long and suffered the indignity of relegation, but at least he was able to say farewell to his fans on an emotionally charged night in the Netherlands on Thursday.
The race for the play-offs begins in earnest in Belfast this week, and with just four points separating Daryl Gurney in fourth and Michael Smith in eighth there is plenty to play for in the final seven weeks of the campaign.
Well-Oiled Machine Continues to Work Like a Charm
The first match of the night in Belfast sees James Wade tackle Mensur Suljovic.
The Machine boasts the highest tournament average thus far, and is just two points off joint-leaders Michael van Gerwen and Rob Cross. With victory here, keeping the pressure on the top two.
Meanwhile Mensur is just one point outside of the play-off places, and so he too seeks a win that would propel him into the reckoning for the O2 Arena finals.
Wade will surely have been pleased with his three points earned in Rotterdam, and he once again looked in sublime form with a pair of averages over the 100 mark. He also threw a nine-darter on the big stage at the German Darts Championship over the weekend.
The Gentle was in rather more confusing form in the Netherlands. He beat Cross 7-5 after being 1-5 down, averaging 88, and he was well below-par once more in defeat to Daryl Gurney the following evening.
Should Be Easy But…
On paper, this appears to be a straightforward win for Wade, but there’s just something about Suljovic that seems to grind his gears. The Englishman was visibly frustrated by the Austrian’s slow play in the European Darts Open a fortnight ago, and has now lost seven of his last nine meetings with his bogeyman.
All Wrong for Wright
These are difficult times for Peter Wright, who has now gone four games without a win in the Premier League.
You wonder if the absence of his wife Jo, who is recuperating following surgery, affected Snakebite in Rotterdam, where he averaged 87 in both of his games and was well off the pace.
Whether she will be fit enough to travel to Belfast remains to be seen, but Wright needs a spark as he is in danger of being cut adrift unless he gets his act together sharpish.
Michael Smith could leapfrog the Scotsman in the table with victory in the second game of the night, and that looks a distinct possibility given that he seemed to find something in Holland.
He beat Gerwyn Price on Wednesday, and while he tasted defeat to James Wade 24 hours later he still averaged 99; a performance level that brings more victories than it does defeats.
You sense that Bully Boy will fancy piling on the misery for Wright here, with a handsome win also helping to improve his -6 leg difference. You can back Smith at 13/10 with MansionBet, with Wright available at 8/5 with Ladbrokes.
Gurney to Leave Irish Eyes Smiling
It’s amazing how sport works out sometimes.
When Daryl Gurney was whitewashed by James Wade in Aberdeen he looked like a player that was happy to be anywhere other than on the oche.
But credit to the Irishman, who has regrouped and found his mojo from somewhere, winning 17 of the 21 matches he has played on tour since; a run which culminated in him lifting the German Darts Championship trophy on Sunday.
Off the Boil
He will be well supported in Belfast this week of course, and he has shown in the past – notably his triumph in the Grand Prix in Dublin – that playing on home soil is a major source of inspiration.
His opponent, Rob Cross, has just gone off the boil of late. He threw away a five-leg lead against Suljovic on night one in Rotterdam, and while beating Jeffrey de Zwaan on night two he averaged a lowly 94.46.
MVG Looking for Sweet Sixteen
In 15 prior meetings, Gerwyn Price has failed to beat Michael van Gerwen once.
The Welshman has had darts to beat his nemesis but has never been able to get across the line, and you wonder when that starts to become a psychological scar too deep to overcome.
Mighty Mike is playing very nicely at the moment, and his two wins in Rotterdam came at a combined average of 101 and change. He also averaged 108 in defeat in the German Darts Championship.
The Darts of His Life
Price is playing the best darts of his life at the moment, but are those good enough to beat an on-song MVG? The history books would suggest not.
While we would steer clear of backing a winner in the Wade vs Suljovic tussle, there is certainly some scope in taking the Machine in the Most 180s category; he’s notched 31 to Mensur’s 22 so far in the Premier League. That’s a 5/4 chance with Betfred.
Elsewhere, Michael Smith looks a live chance at an odds-against price versus Wright, while Daryl Gurney can be backed at a salivating mark on home soil.
And we would expect MVG to complete his now-given victory over Price in the last match of the night.