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It has taken 15 nights of darting action but, finally, the Premier League 2018 will be concluded on Thursday evening in London’s O2 Arena. The card will feature two ‘best of 19’ leg semi-finals and a ‘best of 21’ final. League topper Michael van Gerwen (MVG) will face fourth-placed Rob Cross while Michael Smith plays Gary Anderson.
All four arrowsmiths have played one another twice during the regular league. MVG beat Rob Cross 7-2 a fortnight ago and by an identical score-line in the opening week (Dublin, February 1). Their lifetime head-to-head record makes grim reading for Rob Cross fans too. He has won just two of their 12 meetings, losing eight of the last nine battles dating back to September 2017.
Of course there is one notable victory on Cross’ CV and that was his elimination of MVG from the World Championships at the end of December. Is MVG carrying any scars from that defeat in the sports’ biggest event? It would seem to be Cross’ only hope of turning-over his Dutch rival and proving the odds compilers, who make MVG 2/11 favourite, wrong.
Michael Smith did beat Gary Anderson in week 1 of the Premier League but it was clear that his rival, who performed poorly with a dire 82.5 average, was suffering with a back injury. The Scot got his revenge when they met for the second time a month ago. He scored by a decisive 7-2 margin and posted a whopping 109 average in the process.
In the overall head-to-head standings its 9-3 in Anderson’s favour and he has beaten Michael Smith six times from their last seven meetings (dating back to September 2014). If the stats make this a clear-cut victory for the dual world champion, the fact Michael Smith stumbled onto the Aberdeen stage a week ago suffering from Pleurisy makes it a slam-dunk.
Suffice to say, I’m not speculating on who will proceed to the final, more so what will be MVG’s and Gary Anderson’s margin of victory en-route.
MVG won a fifth consecutive Dutch Masters title over the weekend. In the semi-final of that competition he came from 6-2 behind to secure a 7-6 victory over Daryl Gurney who missed four match darts to win the game. Both players’ averages and checkout percentages were poor though.
The home hero did perform better in the final where he beat Steve Lennon. The Irishman, ranked 50 in the PDC’s Order of Merit, kept the score-line respectable though, it was 8-5. And if he can take five legs off of the Premier League favourite, who’s to say Rob Cross cannot take seven from a potential 19 on Thursday?
If I’m going for the underdog in the handicap in the opener, I’ll go the opposite route with Michael Smith’s attempt to topple Gary Anderson.
Given his health it was surprising to see Smith play in Holland over the weekend. He didn’t exactly play well either, he was whitewashed 6-0 by Stephen Bunting which does not bode well for his task on Thursday. I’m predicting Anderson will win this one decisively.
Rob Cross (+3.5) to beat MVG on the handicap 1/1
Gary Anderson (-3.5) to beat Michael Smith on the handicap 11/10