Premier League Darts 2019 Night One preview and order of play: Tungsten tear-up on the Tyne

Jamie Shaw in PDC Darts News 5 Feb 2019
Van Gerwen and Smith meet for the first time since the World Final (credit:Steve Welsh/PDC)

The 2019 Premier League Darts season kicks off in Newcastle on Thursday night as the nine big names aim to get off to a perfect start.

The format of the sport's most prestigious invitational has been radically revamped following the withdrawal of two-time champion Gary Anderson, with nine of the original selections now joined by a wildcard 'Contender'.

The opening nine nights of competition will each feature a different Contender local to that particular venue as they look to throw a spanner in the works by denying the elite nine crucial points.

Though Contenders cannot acquire points themselves, they are vying for an added financial incentive of £2,500 for a win or £1,000 for a draw.

Tyneside thrower Chris Dobey is the first Contender in action as he aims to raise the roof at the Utilita Arena by upsetting German Masters Champion Mensur Suljovic.

Dobey enjoyed a superb end to 2018, reaching the Quarter-Finals of the Players Championship Finals in Minehead before making it to the Last 16 of the World Championship - where he was eventually denied by Gary Anderson in arguably the match of the tournament.

A former Grand Slam quarter-finalist, Bedlington's Dobey finished runner-up in two Players Championship events last season and will look to catch Suljovic cold on the banks of the Tyne.

Suljovic is entering his second Premier League campaign after being eliminated in ninth position last time out with just two wins from his nine matches.

The Austrian ace dusted himself down to pick up the German Masters and Danish Open titles, while also reaching the final of the World Matchplay and Semi-Finals of the Champions League, World Grand Prix and Grand Slam. 

The pick of the night's fixtures features a repeat of the World Championship final on New Year's Day as defending champion Michael van Gerwen hosts Michael Smith.

The box office duo also met in last year's Premier League final at The O2, where MVG ran out a comfortable 11-4 winner after recording 7-2 and 7-1 thrashings in the round-robin phase.

Van Gerwen has finished top of the table in all six of his previous Premier League appearances, going on to win the title on four occasions, and will look to pick up from where he left off in retaining his Masters title in Milton Keynes on Sunday.

Smith, still reeling from his below-par display in the final at Ally Pally, is bidding to record only a second win over the Dutch superstar in their last nine meetings and was beaten 10-6 by Peter Wright in the Quarter-Finals of The Masters.

He enjoyed a terrific return to the Premier League in 2018, finishing second in the table and defeating his mentor Gary Anderson in the Semi-Finals before coming up short in the final.

World number three Wright, runner-up at The O2 in 2017, begins his sixth Premier League campaign against world number two Rob Cross.

Wright banished his shock Last 64 exit to Toni Alcinas at the World Championship with a run to the Semi-Finals of The Masters and will be keen to hit the ground running after just one win in his opening ten matches last season ended his play-off hopes.

Cross ended his debut season in fourth spot before losing 10-6 to Van Gerwen in the Semi-Finals and is now eyeing another strong campaign, this time without the added expectation of being World Champion on his shoulders.

The pair met in three World Series Semi-Finals in 2018, with Cross winning all three, as well as a win and a draw during last year's Premier League.

Two former Premier League champions collide in the opening match of the tournament as 2009 winner James Wade faces 2014 king Raymond van Barneveld.

Wade is making his return to the competition after missing out last year, securing his spot by virtue of his back-to-back televised triumphs at the European Championship and World Series Finals.

The left-hander began the season in style by reaching the final of The Masters before losing 11-5 to MVG and will look to carry that form into his clash with another Dutch legend.

Van Barneveld begins the final chapter of his illustrious career which will see him retire from professional darts at the end of the year, but RVB still carries the hope of a second Premier League crown in his 14th consecutive appearance. 

Now ranked world number 28, Barney's last televised appearance was his dismal World Championship exit at the hands of Darius Labanauskas in December, and the 51-year-old will be desperate to get that result out of his system at the first time of asking.

Two players embarking on their second Premier League venture go head-to-head as Players Champion Daryl Gurney takes on Grand Slam champion Gerwyn Price.

Gurney ended his debut campaign in fifth after an impressive 16-week showing in which he hit more 180s (67) than any other player in the field, though his inability to convert draws into wins proved costly in his quest for a top four finish.

The Northern Irishman will be keen to improve on a poor head-to-head record which has seen him win just one of his nine previous meetings with Price since 2016.

Pantomime villain Price will be bracing himself for a frosty reception in Newcastle as he looks to register his first televised win since lifting the Grand Slam trophy in controversial fashion last November. 

The passionate Welshman was handed a record £21,500 in fines for three separate incidents at the Grand Slam and appeared subdued on the stage in his First Round defeat to Wade in Milton Keynes last weekend.

The action gets underway from 7pm GMT, with all matches to be contested over the best of 12 legs, making a 6-6 draw a possibility. Two points are awarded for a win and one for a draw.

Unibet Premier League 2019 Schedule

Night One - Thursday February 7

7.15pm James Wade v Raymond van Barneveld
8.00pm Gerwyn Price v Daryl Gurney
8.45pm Chris Dobey v Mensur Suljovic
9.30pm Michael van Gerwen v Michael Smith
10.15pm Peter Wright v Rob Cross

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Premier League Darts 2019 Night One preview and order of play: Tungsten tear-up on the Tyne

The 2019 Premier League Darts season kicks off in Newcastle on Thursday night as the nine big names aim to get off to a perfect start.

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