Coverage of the 2020 Premier League Darts season resumes on Tuesday, with 10 nights of action taking place behind closed doors in Milton Keynes, live on Sky Sports
By Josh Gorton
Last Updated: 24/08/20 2:04pm
The 2020 Premier League Darts season resumes on Tuesday evening, with 10 nights set to be played behind closed doors at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes from August 25 to September 5.
Following the success of July’s World Matchplay – hosted within the secure Milton Keynes bubble – the Premier League will go behind closed doors at the Marshall Arena for ten nights of action, before the Play-Offs are due to take place at London’s O2 on Thursday October 22.
As we prepare to welcome back the world’s elite with a bumper few weeks of action, we’ve picked out five key things to watch…
The battle for top spot
Since making his tournament debut in 2013, Michael van Gerwen has finished top of the league phase for seven consecutive seasons, although that record may be under threat over the next fortnight.
‘The Green Machine’ endured a stuttering start to the 2020 season courtesy of two defeats from his opening five matches, and he trails current leader Glen Durrant by a solitary point following six nights of action.
Van Gerwen and Phil Taylor are the only two players to top the league phase since the tournament’s inception in 2005 and although the title is the ultimate prize, it’s a great source of pride for MvG to have consistently bettered his biggest rivals over an elongated campaign.
Durrant has been the epitome of consistency in his debut Premier League season thus far, although with ten nights taking place over an intensive two-week period, momentum can quickly shift and you’d be a brave man to back against Van Gerwen returning to the summit yet again.
Follow the Premier League return on Sky Sports
You can watch every night of the Premier League return on Sky Sports, starting on Tuesday August 25
Judgement Night drama
There are just three fixtures remaining before one of this year’s field will be eliminated through the Premier League trap door and Daryl Gurney is currently languishing in that precarious position, with just two points from a possible 12.
The Northern Irishman finished fifth on debut in 2018 and appeared in last year’s Play-Offs, but he was left to rue missed opportunities in the opening stages of this year’s edition, with three of his four defeats coming via 7-5 scorelines.
The two-time major winner trails last year’s finalist Rob Cross and world No 3 Gerwyn Price by three points, and Gurney takes on challenger Chris Dobey, world No 6 Nathan Aspinall and world champion Peter Wright in his remaining fixtures.
The fight to avoid elimination notoriously creates compelling drama and although Gurney appears cut adrift at present, victory over Dobey when the tournament resumes could shine a whole new complexion on the basement battle.
How will the remaining Challengers fare?
The PDC reintroduced the ‘challengers’ concept in 2020 and it’s been refreshing to see some of the game’s brightest talents given the opportunity to showcase their ability, whilst also rewarding unheralded stars with their night of adulation in front of partisan home support.
John Henderson’s walk-on in Aberdeen last year and William O’Connor’s entrance in Dublin back in February will live long in the memory, but this year’s remaining three challengers – Chris Dobey, Jeffrey de Zwaan and Jermaine Wattimena – will be deprived of their homecoming this year.
Dobey received a rapturous reception on the opening night of last year’s showpiece in Newcastle and De Zwaan starred in the Rotterdam double-header in 2019, but you have to feel for Wattimena, who was expecting to make his Premier League bow on home soil at the Ahoy Arena.
It will be intriguing to see how the lack of home advantage affects the dynamics, as only three of this year’s six challengers tasted defeat before the tournament was halted. Will the trio struggle without the incentive of performing for a home crowd, or could they thrive in the unique environment?
Unpredictability to reign?
There was plenty of conjecture about whether the behind closed doors set-up at the World Matchplay would create upsets and so it proved, as debutant Dimitri Van den Bergh stormed through the field to pick up his first major PDC title.
For the first time since the World Grand Prix in 2012, the quarter-finals of a major televised event did not feature any of the world’s top four, with Michael Smith and Gary Anderson the sole top ten representatives to reach the last eight.
Could we see a similar story once the Premier League returns? Van Gerwen, Aspinall and Gerwyn Price are just three established figures who relish the big-stage atmosphere and all three struggled at the Matchplay, producing lethargic displays in crashing out within the opening few days.
Playing behind closed doors is not a novel concept for any of the world’s elite, who compete in subdued Pro Tour environments on a regular basis, but with ten nights at the Marshall Arena, it only takes one player to catch fire and others to toil and suddenly, the table could be turned on its head.
The race for the Play-Offs
Following Judgement Night on August 27, the focus will immediately switch to the race for the Play-Offs, which are set to take place at London’s O2 on the revised date of October 22.
Michael van Gerwen is bidding to lift the Premier League title for a fifth consecutive year and the irrepressible Dutchman is a virtual certainty to make the top four, but the remaining places are very much up for grabs, with just four points separating leader Durrant and eighth placed Cross.
As it stands, world champion Wright, two-time champion Anderson, world No 3 Price and last year’s runner-up Cross are all outside Play-Off qualification, but with their experience and pedigree, they certainly won’t be panicking.
There may be uncertainty about whether fans will be welcomed back for the Play-Offs, but one thing we can guarantee ahead of the Premier League’s return is top-class arrows, as the world’s best battle it out for the £250,000 top prize. Let the games begin…
Darts is back on Sky Sports later this month, as the Premier League returns with six consecutive nights of action getting under way on Tuesday, August 25.