Raymond Van Barneveld big value to make his experience count
Injury-hit Anderson may struggle to reach playoffs
Starts Sky Sports Action, 7pm Thursday
Dutch darting titan Raymond van Barneveld succeeds Phil Taylor as the grand old man of the Premier League and he can prove there’s nothing quite like experience by storming his way to the playoffs.
It’s 40-1 bar the front four with Van Barneveld among the supposed also-rans in an event which bookmakers expect Michael van Gerwen, Rob Cross, Gary Anderson and Peter Wright to dominate.
Three of that lot made last year’s playoffs while debutant Cross arrives in Dublin for round one of the three-and-a-half month marathon as the reigning world champion.
But to rule out a player of Barney’s talent would be sheer madness. A winner in 2014 and semi-finalist a year later, the five-time world champ will be the people’s champion in The Power’s absence and the 50-year-old’s form is as good as ever.
He reached the last eight at Alexandra Palace with three ton-plus averages only to get pipped by Van Gerwen. He then made the final of The Masters last Sunday, a run which included a 10-2 annihilation of Wright and three more ton-plus averages.
He’s cut down his workload in recent seasons so one game a week throughout the spring shouldn’t be a cause for concern and the fact is that he’s playing as well as ever and better than most of his rivals.
There have to be doubts over the top four in the betting, although not Van Gerwen, obviously. Mighty Mike has enjoyed five Premier League campaigns, topping the league each time, reaching five finals and winning the trophy three times. He’s 1-2 to head the standings after week 14 once again.
But Anderson and Wright ended 2017 with health problems which continue to dog them. Snakebite is making adjustments after some serious weight loss while two-time champion Anderson has a back issue which is going to require a lot more treatment. The Scot may well be the one to oppose in this event.
As for Cross, does second-season syndrome exist in darts? We’ll soon find out and he was the first to admit he endured a “rabbit-in-the-headlights” moment against Mensur Suljovic at The Masters at the weekend.
Suddenly, after an amazing year, Voltage is in demand and it will be interesting to see how he copes. Will he sink without trace like Wes Newton, Kim Huybrechts or Michael Smith or will he do a Van Gerwen and simply carry on where he left off at Ally Pally?
Put it this way, should he really be a tenth of the price of Barney? All the evidence suggests not and Van Barneveld looks great value to make the top four, at the very least.
Cross is one of four debutants for 2018 while Smith and Simon Whitlock return after absences. Given the number of new faces in the event, giving a wide-open look to the undercard, the Australian is not really worth backing at odds-on to be eliminated after week nine, when the field is reduced from ten to eight.
Who knows how Daryl Gurney, Gerwyn Price or Suljovic are going to deal with the demands of the competition and we know from what happened in 2016 that Smith also found it hard going.
Bully Boy could actually be a bit of value to hit the most 180s over the first nine weeks at 8-1 with Betfred. He’s a prodigious maximum gatherer and the chances are that his matches are going to last longer than, say, Van Gerwen’s so that should provide scope for more big scores.
Rookie Gurney is the tip to be knocked out in week nine. A poor World Championship was followed by a first-round exit at the Masters and Superchin could find this whole circus a real challenge.
R van Barneveld
1pt e-w 40-1 Betway, Coral, Ladbrokes
R van Barneveld top-four finish
2pts 2-1 Coral, Ladbrokes
G Anderson not to reach the semi-finals
2pts 2-1 Betfred
D Gurney to be eliminated
1pt 4-1 Hills
M Smith most 180s (first nine weeks only)
1pt 8-1 Betfred
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