2019 Unibet Premier League Darts Night 16: Leeds Preview
THE 2019 Unibet Premier League’s Darts regular season concludes final league at the First Direct Arena in Leeds on Thursday, where four players are vying for the final two Play-Off places.
The tightest ever league phase will reach its climax in Yorkshire in arguably the most pivotal night of league action in the competition’s 15-year history.
James Wade, Mensur Suljovic, Daryl Gurney and Gerwyn Price all still harbour hopes of making it to The O2 on May 23, while Rob Cross and Michael van Gerwen are battling it out for top spot and the £25,000 league leader bonus.
All four games will have a bearing on the final finishing positions on a crucial night of action, beginning when sixth-placed Gerwyn Price takes on Peter Wright – who sits eighth – in the opening game of the night.
Welshman Price must win or draw to keep his Play-Off hopes alive and then hope results go his way later in the night, and the Grand Slam of Darts Champion is hoping he won’t be left ruing missed chances amongst six draws this season.
“At the start of the league I would’ve taken this position but going back five or six weeks I would’ve been disappointed for the situation to be out of my hands,” said Price, who drew 7-7 with Play-Off chasing rival Gurney in Sheffield last Thursday but missed one match dart.
“Last week’s game meant a lot to me, I knew I needed a win or at least a draw and I should’ve won. But it didn’t go my way and I’ve got to move on now.
“If I don’t go through it’s still been a brilliant year for me in the Premier League, even though I drew too many games. I’m going to keep being me and playing my own game.”
The focus then moves to fifth-placed Daryl Gurney, who takes on already-eliminated Michael Smith and knows that he must better the results of Price and Suljovic.
The Northern Irishman pinned a pivotal double 16 with his last dart in hand against Price in Sheffield to take a big step towards making his Play-Offs debut.
“For me, that game was the biggest of the season,” reflected Gurney. “He was the far better player and probably should have won the game, and I did well to get a draw,” said Gurney.
“I came away with a very important point. If I’d lost that game and Gerwyn had won it he would have been in the driving seat to qualify for The O2, but we got a draw so if Gerwyn wins [in Leeds] I’ve got to win.
“I think it leads for a very interesting last week, and I know it’s going to be a very difficult game against Michael Smith. He is a sleeping giant right now – the most naturally gifted player there is on the circuit.”
Fourth-placed Suljovic competes in the third tie of the evening, against Van Gerwen, and knows that he must better the results of Gurney and Price in their earlier games.
“Of course it will be really hard and I know I have to play well to beat Michael, but I will give it my all,” said Suljovic.
“It’s been a great Premier League and I hope I can make the top four and play in the Play-Offs. I’ve loved the Premier League this season and I don’t want it to end this week.”
Third-placed Wade will qualify with a win or a draw from his tie with Cross in the night’s final fixture, although if Gurney or Suljovic fail to win then the 2009 champion will have qualified for the Play-Offs before throwing a dart.
“I was disappointed to only come away with a draw last week, but it could turn out to be a good point,” said Wade.
“I know what I’ve got to do now, the equation for me is simple so it’s up to me to go out there and do it against Rob on Thursday.”
Cross moved a step closer to joining Phil Taylor and Van Gerwen as the third player in history to top the league phase with an 8-4 victory over Suljovic in Sheffield last week, and a win over Wade would guarantee a finish at the top of the pile.
In doing so, the former World Champion would end Van Gerwen’s record of topping the league phase every year since his 2013 debut, while also pocketing the £25,000 bonus for topping the standings.
“It would be a real privilege to join Phil and Michael on the list of league phase winners,” said Cross, who has won ten matches in this year’s competition, more than any other player.
“If it was easy to do then there would be a fair few more players on that list, so I can’t take for granted how special it would be.
“I’ve got a tough game against James on Thursday, he’s played brilliant darts throughout the Premier League and he’s got a great chance to qualify. I’m going to have to play proper darts to get the win and I believe I will.”
Meanwhile, Van Gerwen will be aiming to put the pressure on Cross in their battle to top the final league table in his meeting with Suljovic.
The Dutchman sits a point behind Cross but has superior leg difference, so would move top with a draw ahead of the 2018 World Champion’s meeting with Wade in the final tie in Leeds.
“I can only blame myself for being in this position – I lost too many points this year,” said Van Gerwen.
“I think I can make up the point difference on Rob, I’ve been there before and I know what it takes so I will hopefully pile the pressure onto him with a win over Mensur.”
Night 16 of the Unibet Premier League in Leeds will be shown live on Sky Sports, worldwide through the PDC’s broadcast partners, and through video.pdc.tv for Rest of the World Subscribers.
Night 16 – Thursday, May 16
First Direct Arena, Leeds
Gerwyn Price v Peter Wright
Daryl Gurney v Michael Smith
Michael van Gerwen v Mensur Suljovic
James Wade v Rob Cross
Unibet Premier League – Night 16 Permutations
Qualifies with a win or a draw.
If Gurney or Suljovic do not win, Wade has qualified before playing his match.
If Price draws, he needs Suljovic and Gurney to lose.
If Price wins, he needs Suljovic and Gurney not to win.
Needs a better result than Mensur Suljovic and Gerwyn Price.
Needs a better result than Daryl Gurney and Gerwyn Price.
Players tied on points are split as follows:
Leg Difference (+/-)
Legs Won Against Throw (LWAT)
Tournament Average from Sportradar