The 2020 Premier League Darts season kicks off in Aberdeen on Thursday with three Scottish stars aiming to raise the…
The 2020 Premier League Darts season kicks off in Aberdeen on Thursday with three Scottish stars aiming to raise the roof at the all-new P&J Arena.
The first stop on a 16-week tour of the UK, Ireland, Netherlands and Germany sees the tournament move across the city of Aberdeen from the AECC to an 8,000 capacity P&J Arena.
The 16th edition of Premier League Darts will feature nine of the world’s top stars, plus a further nine ‘Challengers’ for the opening nine nights, before the bottom player in the league table is eliminated.
The eight remaining players will then progress to the second phase of the competition to battle it out for the four play-off places at London’s O2 Arena in May.
As per Premier League tradition, the opening night features a repeat of the World Championship final as Scotland welcomes home its new champion Peter Wright as he faces Michael van Gerwen.
Wright fulfilled his darting destiny with victory over Van Gerwen at Alexandra Palace on New Year’s Day to become World Champion and seemingly picked up from where he left off by claiming Masters glory last weekend.
The world number two appears a different animal having captured the winning formula with a new set of darts and is now unbeaten in his last ten televised matches.
Wright was runner-up to MVG in the 2017 Premier League, famously squandering six match darts, but now has the psychological upper-hand over his former nemesis – who is aiming to re-assert his authority.
Van Gerwen has made this tournament his own in recent years and is in pursuit of a fifth consecutive Premier League title and sixth in total to equal Phil Taylor’s record.
The world number one has also finished top of the table in each of his seven previous appearances and will be keen to set the pace from the outset and shake off the rustiness he showed in a First Round defeat to Jonny Clayton at The Masters.
Arguably the main event of the evening, however, features the homecoming of Huntly’s John Henderson as he aims to delight Granite City crowd one again.
Henderson held Van Gerwen to a 6-6 draw on his debut as a ‘Contender’ last year, with his walk-on and performance proving to be one of the highlights of the darting year.
The world number 31 is now hoping to go one better and become the first ‘Challenger’ to win a match against a Premier League regular when he takes on Nathan Aspinall.
UK Open champion Aspinall is one of two debutants in the nine-man line-up having been rewarded for a sensational season in 2019 which also saw him win the U.S Masters and reach a second successive World Championship Semi-Final.
Aspinall was a Contender himself last year but has since shown he is fully worthy of a permanent spot and now has the unenviable task of silencing 8,000 partisan Scots in his quest for two points.
Glen Durrant is the other debutant in this year’s field and will be determined to hit the ground running with victory over 2018 finalist Michael Smith.
Durrant, a three-time BDO World Champion, enjoyed a remarkable first season as a PDC Tour Card holder, reaching three major Semi-Finals and picking up two ranking titles.
The Teessider got his first taste of the Premier League as a Contender in Glasgow, losing to Daryl Gurney, but has since proven he can beat the world’s best on the sport’s biggest stages.
Duzza and Smith forged their own rivalry in 2019, with Smith winning their Grand Slam Semi-Final before his post-match comments angered Durrant – who went on to gain his revenge in the Quarter-Finals of the Grand Slam.
Smith is making his fourth appearance in the Premier League and will be keen to improve on a disappointing 2019 campaign which saw him finish seventh, nine points adrift of the top four.
The former world finalist warmed up for this event with a run to the final of The Masters, squandering three match darts to take the title, and will be desperate to get that early setback out of his system here.
Gary Anderson for once may not be the most popular Scotsman to take to a Premier League stage north of the border, but the two-time champion will be set for a huge reception as he returns to this elite competition after missing last year’s edition through injury.
The 2011 and 2015 champion starts out against two-time major finalist Daryl Gurney, with the pair having won eight apiece and drawn one in an inseparable head-to-head record.
Anderson showed glimpses of his brilliant best in last weekend’s Masters, thrashing rival Gerwyn Price 10-2 with a 102 average before going down to eventual champion Wright in the Semi-Finals.
He has already written off a frustrating 2019 and admits the Premier League will “make or break” him in terms of how his overall year could pan out.
Gurney is making his third consecutive Premier League appearance, having enjoyed a fine run to the Semi-Finals last time around.
That was one of three major Semi-Final appearances for the world number seven last season, but after a below-par defeat to Dave Chisnall in The Masters, ‘Superchin’ will look to kick-start his campaign here and defy a partisan Scottish crowd.
Two players also embarking on their third consecutive Premier League campaigns collide in the final match of the evening as Gerwyn Price faces Rob Cross.
After a nightmare debut season which saw him eliminated on Judgement Night, Price enjoyed a respectable fifth place last time out and will now aim to mount a serious quest for a top four spot.
The back-to-back Grand Slam champion has stormed to a career-high third in the Order of Merit to ensure an automatic pick this year after a landmark season which also saw him reach a further two major finals.
Question marks remain over Cross’ form coming into this event, having suffered a shock early exit to Kim Huybrechts at the World Championship before averaging just 83 in a 10-5 defeat to Adrian Lewis at The Masters.
Cross finished runner-up in last year’s Premier League before going on to win the World Matchplay and European Championship – where he defeated Price in the final.
The action gets underway from 7pm GMT, with all matches to be contested over the best of 12 legs.
Premier League Darts 2020 Match Schedule
Night One – Thursday February 6
7.15pm Michael Smith v Glen Durrant
8.00pm Gary Anderson v Daryl Gurney
8.45pm Michael van Gerwen v Peter Wright
9.30pm Nathan Aspinall v John Henderson
10.15pm Gerwyn Price v Rob Cross