The 2021 Premier League Darts season begins in Milton Keynes on Easter Monday with five fascinating fixtures in the offing….
The 2021 Premier League Darts season begins in Milton Keynes on Easter Monday with five fascinating fixtures in the offing.
A unique staging of the Premier League will see all 17 nights held behind closed doors at the Marshall Arena, split across five separate date ranges.
The first five nights will be staged consecutively from April 5-9 as the sport’s elite stars aim to hit the ground running in their quest to reach the second phase.
World number one and World Champion Gerwyn Price will be absent from the tournament after testing positive for Covid-19.
Price has been replaced in the field by reigning UK Open champion James Wade – who was on standby at the venue on Easter Sunday.
The Welshman had been due to face Gary Anderson in a repeat of the World Championship final on opening night, but Wade now steps in looking to seize his unexpected chance.
Wade was the next highest-ranked player from the PDC Order of Merit not previously selected for the 2021 Premier League and will now make his eleventh appearance in the competition.
The Aldershot left-hander claimed the Premier League title in 2009 and was a beaten finalist in 2008 and 2010.
Anderson has become somewhat of a Premier League stalwart, having made his debut a decade ago when we went on to win the title.
The Flying Scotsman has made the play-offs in seven of his nine previous campaigns and has been a regular at the business end of majors over the last 12 months despite not always being at the top of his game.
Anderson, who was runner-up in last year’s World Matchplay, has won 34 and drawn four of his 55 previous meetings with Wade dating back to 2005.
All eyes will be on defending champion Glen Durrant as he raises the curtain on the new campaign with a rematch of last year’s final against Nathan Aspinall.
Three-time BDO World Champion Durrant finished top of the table and secured his first major silverware as a PDC player last October but has enjoyed minimal success since, having been struck down with Coronavirus shortly after his dream Premier League triumph.
A brief Duzza resurgence in the World Championship resulted in a sudden death defeat to Dirk van Duijvenbode in the Last 16, having squandered a three sets to one lead.
Early exits then followed in The Masters and UK Open, while wins on the ProTour have also proved few and far between for the tenacious Teessider so far this year.
However, he will be hopeful the Premier League can provide a perfect platform to recapture the winning formula, starting against an opponent who has also struggled for form of late.
Former UK Open champion Aspinall also enjoyed a memorable debut season in last year’s Premier League, finishing third in the table and defeating Peter Wright in the Semi-Finals before going down 11-8 to Durrant.
The Asp began this year brightly by reaching successive ProTour Semi-Finals but has since suffered five opening round exits in his last seven tournament appearances.
This year’s Premier League features three debutants, all having picked up their first major televised titles with the last 12 months.
Dimitri van den Bergh is one of the trio of newcomers and faces a high-profile opener against five-time Premier League winner Michael van Gerwen.
Van den Bergh secured his place in this prestigious event courtesy of his fairy-tale World Matchplay triumph last July, but a serious knee injury has halted his progress since.
The Belgian youngster reached the Last 16 of the World Championship but has slumped to First Round defeats in five of the eight Players Championship events so far this term, as well as a Last 64 exit at the UK Open.
However, he has undergone a successful operation which means he will be competing without the need for a knee brace, though question marks remain over the 26-year-old’s form as he continues his recovery.
Van Gerwen, meanwhile, is aiming to bounce back from last year’s shock failure to reach the play-offs for the first time in eight Premier League appearances.
The Dutch sensation had previously never failed to reach the final, but a return of eight wins from his 16 matches meant he ended the round-robin phase in a lowly sixth position.
Van Gerwen returned to the winner’s circle in last November’s Players Championship Finals, before being whitewashed by an inspired Dave Chisnall in the Quarter-Finals at Ally Pally.
A Semi-Final defeat to Luke Humphries in the UK Open turned out to be his last appearance prior to this event, having opted out of the second quartet of Players Championships.
Jonny Clayton enters his debut Premier League Darts campaign as arguably the most in-form player of the entire field, having enjoyed a sensational start to the year.
The Welsh ace, who won the World Cup alongside Gerwyn Price last season, clinched his spot in this event by winning The Masters in February and has gone on to land a further brace of ProTour titles and reach a further two finals.
The Ferret has been registering ton-plus averages with impressive regularity on both floor and stage and will look to maintain his red hot form in his opening fixture against Peter Wright.
World number three Wright is making his eighth consecutive Premier League appearance, having missed multiple match darts to win the title in 2017 and losing out in last year’s Semi-Finals.
Snakebite, who finished second in the table last season, comes into the new campaign on the back of winning the most recent Players Championship event a fortnight ago.
Grand Slam champion Jose De Sousa marks his Premier League debut with a clash against 2019 runner-up Rob Cross.
The Portuguese star has enjoyed a meteoric rise over the last 18 months, climbing from 61st in the Order of Merit to 15th and with the power to add in the coming months.
He has become renowned as one of the most prolific 180 hitters in world darts but will look to brush up on his finishing and mental arithmetic if he is to launch a play-off push.
Cross, on the other hand, is looking to arrest a significant slump in form which could see him slide down the rankings later this season should he fail to defend prize money from key events in 2019.
The former World Champion is embarking on his fourth consecutive Premier League campaign, having qualified automatically as the world number four following the World Championship.
Cross was eliminated at the halfway stage of last year’s competition, having mustered just one win from nine, and will be determined to ensure history does not repeat itself.
The action gets under way from 7pm BST, with all matches to be contested over the best of 12 legs. Two points are awarded for a win and one point for a draw.
Premier League Darts 2021 Schedule
Night One – Monday April 5
7.15pm Nathan Aspinall v Glen Durrant
8.00pm Rob Cross v Jose de Sousa
8.45pm Peter Wright v Jonny Clayton
9.30pm James Wade v Gary Anderson
10.15pm Michael van Gerwen v Dimitri Van den Bergh