Premier League Darts: Time for a decisive showdown in Sheffield

Michael Smith - Darts
Bully Boy will be looking to leapfrog his good friend to qualify for finals night

It's the final week of regular action before the play-offs at The 02 and all eyes are on Michael Smith against Nathan Aspinall, a fixture that will determine who'll claim the last remaining spot.

  • Luke Humphries and Luke Littler are joint favourite to win the Premier League at 13/82.63

  • Michael Smith is 15/82.88 to beat Nathan Aspinall and hit the most 180s in the contest

  • Rob Cross can't qualify but his form is impossible to ignore

The two players who contested the World Championship final on January 3rd, Luke Humphries and Littler, are joint favourite to become just the eighth different winner of this tournament in its 20 year history at 13/82.63. As for reigning and defending seven time champion Michael van Gerwen, he's struggled to set the world alight so far during this campaign but has still picked up four nightly wins and we all know how he tends to save his best for finals night, he's 7/24.50 to make it a record extending eighth title.

Crucial Clash should be enthralling

With three players already confirmed for the play-offs, just one spot remains and the two players battling to claim it are the reigning Matchplay champion Nathan Aspinall and the 2023 World Champion Michael Smith, who collide in a winner takes all contest. Nerves of steel will be required from both in the steel city.

The Asp agonisingly missed out on finals night last year and has spoken time and time again about how desperate he is to avoid the same fate this time around. Despite having the second lowest running average in this year's event, he still occupies fourth spot having finished runner-up on three occasions and claimed victory in Exeter and Rotterdam.

His finishing percentage is also the second lowest, with only Peter Wright checking out fewer of his attempts at the outer ring but he's hit more 140s than anyone else in the field and that has been one of his main strengths throughout this campaign.

Aspinall has also shown true quality at crucial times and dug deep and shown tremendous tenacity when his back has been against the wall.

the asp getty 12.jpg

He faces his good pal Michael Smith, the player who beat him at the same stage of last week's stop on this darting roadshow in Leeds.

The 2023 Grand Slam winner claimed a 6-3 win on night 15, despite averaging five points fewer than The Asp and while I expect this one to be close and nerves to be jangling, I am again backing Smith to win this one and hit the most 180s @ 15/82.88.

Bully Boy has enjoyed quite an upturn in form this year. Picking up his first title since signing for darts manufacturers Shot, Smith posted an average just shy of 110 en route to Players Championship nine glory just over a week ago, something that'll almost certainly have alleviated some pressure that he'd put on himself.

Cross left it too late

Before a dart had been thrown in this year's Premier League campaign, I backed Rob Cross to finish in the top four. The way he played at the backend of 2023 was remarkable, in my opinion the best level he'd produced since his debut season in the PDC.

Regularly producing ridiculous numbers, I expected him to carry that level through into this tournament. Unfortunately for Voltage, by the time he did start delivering devastating displays again, there was already too much distance between himself and those above him in the table.

At the weekend he became just the eighth player to win a Euro Tour with a tournament average in excess of a ton since the longer format matches were introduced.

He's made a few changes to his routine over recent weeks and it is making a huge difference, he was sublime against Luke Humphries in the final in Kiel, defying a nine from Cool Hand to claim the victory.

Despite having nothing but a nightly win to play for, I'm backing the 2018 World Champion to again get the better of MvG this week at 5/42.25.

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