Wayne Mardle's Premier League Preview: MVG the rightful favourite but keep an eye out for Chizzy

You can get odds-against on MVG being Premier League champion for the second time
You can get odds-against on MVG being Premier League champion for the second time

The 2016 Premier League of Darts starts in Leeds on Thursday so our man Wayne Mardle returns with his verdict before the best boys in the game step up to the oche...

"Van Gerwen has won the league phase for the last three years and I cannot see past him for this term either, his consistency elevates him above everyone else right now, his bad performances are still of a high quality. Van Gerwen had a tournament average last year of 105.15, incredible."

It's that time of year again - the Premier League circus will be rolling into a town near you very soon, darts fans! The top ten players in the world going head-to-head every week until Finals night on May 19 in London. I'm the excitable type and this is doing it for me.

There's just one debutant trying to make his mark this year - Michael Smith. Can he produce the goods over this notoriously tough format? The feature of Michael's game is the speed at which he can rattle off a few legs. He's got the talent alright but can he hold it together for the duration? Some have left the Premier League utterly deflated and broken, I sincerely hope Smith gets off on the right footing and runs with it.

For the first nine weeks some will be trying not to be eliminated and putting points on the board, then after 15 weeks it's all about making the playoffs at the O2 in London. In week 16 a champion will be crowned.

Last year Peter Wright and Kim Huybrechts were eliminated after week nine, at least Peter has a chance to redeem himself. Kim's form has dipped and he won't be taking part this time round.

Michael Van Gerwen comes into the tournament as 5/4 favourite and it will take a big slip up if he's not to repeat his dominance of the last three years.

The favourite to be eliminated last year was Dave Chisnall and he got within a leg of winning the league phase. Repeat after me: any outcome is possible.

Robert Thornton comes back into the PL fold, having won the Grand Prix in October, and he has the credentials to upset anyone on his day. The inconsistent Scotsman is a fiery ball of talent waiting to explode.

Van Gerwen has won the league phase for the last three years and I cannot see past him for this term either, his consistency elevates him above everyone else right now, his bad performances are still of a high quality. Van Gerwen had a tournament average last year of 105.15, incredible.

Gary Anderson is the reigning champ and World Champ AGAIN. He's going to feel good about this year too, and why not? The amiable Scotsman is playing beautifully and I for one think he can retain his title just like he did the world championships just a month ago. The new and relaxed Gary is a menace.

Phil Taylor isn't quite as good as he once was, but that doesn't mean he won't win, and whoever you back he seems to be the one you're looking out for. I think he'll qualify for the playoffs unlike last year when he failed for the first time ever.

Smith will be good for the Premier League, he's quick, and very capable. He'll be looking to the dream start just to take the pressure off those young shoulders.

James Wade's consistency will be his friend but with the more dynamic types around him he'll have to be on his game. His double hitting is usually very good and it'll have to be. A former champion in 2009.

You back against Thornton at your peril. The man is a real spoiler. In the 2014 PL he hit 105 average followed by 82, then 104 by 89. Like I said, a real spoiler. Averages are only a guide as to how well a player has played, but they are a very good guide.

Raymond Van Barneveld, the 2014 champion, has a superb record in qualifying for the playoffs of this event. The big Dutchman has qualified on eight occasions from 10, a brilliant achievement.

Adrian Lewis hasn't reached the playoffs in the last four years, the league phase format just doesn't seem to suit him. Those are the twice World Champ's words not mine. There sometimes seems no urgency in his play. The 2011 runner-up will need to be focused and determined, because when he is he wins world titles. Lewis looked good at the recent World Championships.

Peter Wright has been playing wonderfully well but just can't win. He needs to cross the line first SOON you'd think otherwise the opportunity for him my have passed. Last year he drew four from nine played, that's why he missed the cut. On the plus side he's playing so much better than at this time last year.

Hot, cold, tepid, boiling hot, freezing! That was Dave Chisnall's form up until last year. He's now a ton average man, and very difficult to deal with when hitting so many maximums. He'll cause a few sleepless nights for his opponents.


My Premier League of Darts Selections

Outright
Michael Van Gerwen @ 5/4

To Reach The Playoffs
Dave Chisnall @ 9/4

To Be Elimated
James Wade & Michael Smith

Most 180s Overall
Dave Chisnall @ 9/2

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