Littler aims for three in a row in Birmingham as Van Gerwen struggles


Littler aims for three in a row in Birmingham as Van Gerwen struggles

Littler with his prize for victory in Manchester
Littler with his prize for victory in ManchesterProfimedia
Birmingham sets the scene for the 11th matchday of Premier League darts on Thursday evening, with young gun Luke Littler looking for his third nightly win in a row.

Littler and Luke Humphries seem to have all but assured themselves of a play-off spot.

The Nuke won the last two nights and is looking for his hat-trick, but usual suspect Michael van Gerwen is currently fourth after a strong start and is starting to feel Michael Smith breathing down his neck.

Here we preview night 11 of the Premier League:

Peter Wright v Luke Humphries

Peter Wright has been on better form in recent weeks and has now won two Premier League matches.

After six defeats in a row, he beat Gerwyn Price on evening 7 and Rob Cross on evening 9, but evening 10 was another defeat for the Scot, despite an almost 110 average.

He had to lose out to Price, who threw 107 average. That doesn't sit well with him either. But he could not maintain that game during the floor tournaments on Monday and Tuesday in Leicester, with Berry van Peer and Lee Evans proving too strong in the first round.

Wright is generally playing well on the floor this season, reaching two semi-finals and two quarter-finals, but on the big stage, he is still not succeeding. Wright has four points in the Premier League, putting him comfortably in last place and will be hoping that this season ends as soon as possible.

As such, he still has to face Humphries in Birmingham. The Englishman was very comfortably in first place after winning nights 6, 7 and 8.

But due to an unleashed Littler, Humphries still has to settle for virtual second place. It won't matter much to him, as with 22 points he does seem certain of the play-offs at the O2 in London in May.

Despite losing to Littler on night 9 and to Michael Smith on evening 10 (with very poor play), Humphries is still in form. Indeed, between those two defeats, he won the second Euro Tour with an average of over 100 in almost every match.

On Monday and Tuesday, he was also in action on the floor in Leicester. On Tuesday he made it to the final but had to give way to a great playing Danny Noppert. It finished 8-6.

For Humphries in the Premier League, it is now important that he does not weaken too much and maintains his superior form towards the play-offs

Rob Cross v Luke Littler

What started out as a fine comeback in the Premier League for Rob Cross with weeks in or around the top four, has now turned into only a very slim chance of qualifying for the play-offs.

Indeed, Cross lost the last four matches and saw rivals Smith and Nathan Aspinall continue to pull away.

He reached the final at the first Euro Tour, but since then the Englishman has been out of form. During the second Euro Tour, he finished in the third round and also on Monday and Tuesday on the floor he struggled. In Leicester, he made it to the second round and eighth final.

If Cross wants anything more in the Premier League, he will have to grab victories during each of the remaining events. He currently has 11 points, leaving him six points behind number four Van Gerwen.

Littler is the new proud frontrunner in the Premier League. What failed to happen for eight weeks has now happened two weeks in a row - namely winning in the final.

As a result, he added 10 points in 14 days to reach a total of 23 points. That is one more than Humphries, making the youngest player also the frontrunner.

From that position, things will have to go very wrong for him not to go to the final round play-offs.

Littler won twice against Van Gerwen and Aspinall, once against Price and once against Humphries in the final rounds. Littler was also in action on the floor in Leicester with mixed results: stranded on Monday in the fourth round, and Tuesday in the third.

Gerwyn Price v Michael Smith

There was something odd about Price last week. The Welshman played superbly in Manchester, beating Wright and Smith - against Smith, he even threw a nine-darter.

But when he took on Littler in the final, things fell apart for Price. He showed absolutely no emotion anymore and threw about 10 points less on average than in his other matches, resulting in a hopeless defeat.

As a result, Price has ten points and is sixth. His game continues to improve with high averages, but the question is whether it is already too late for his Premier League season.

Price also played on the floor this week. On Monday he lost in the first round, Tuesday in the fourth to Noppert.

While the stakes may be lower for Price, that is certainly not the case for Smith.

The Englishman is fifth with 15 points and only two behind Van Gerwen. Smith, who is performing inconsistently in the competition, needs a win to keep the pressure on.

This year they played each other four times, three of which were wins. Only last week, therefore, they did not, although Smith was very happy with Price's nine-darter.

He too was in action on the floor, but was knocked out twice in the second round.

Michael Van Gerwen v Nathan Aspinall

Van Gerwen concludes the quarter-finals with a match against Aspinall, and for him, it is an important matchday, something very few would have expected when Van Gerwen was in the number one spot for weeks after posting three nightly wins in a row.

The fact is, Van Gerwen has simply been less than impressive in recent weeks, especially in Manchester last week.

He threw a 91 average against Littler and admitted on Viaplay's camera that he just played very badly. Van Gerwen is fourth with 17 points and has only a two-point lead over Smith in fifth.

The Dutchman was also in action on the floor in Leicester. Monday he reached the final round, Tuesday the third round.

Aspinall is a man in form. As has been mentioned for a couple of weeks, Aspinall was in very bad shape after four weeks, but he has managed to bounce back and is now third in the competition.

With 18 points, he is far from certain of his place in the play-offs, but handsome is his current ranking for sure.

Aspinall also doesn't often lose his first match anymore. The last time was in night six, and that means he got at least two points four times in a row. 

Aspinall was also in action at Leicester, in which he was eliminated twice in the third round. Aspinall is 2-0 behind in the Premier League encounters between himself and Van Gerwen, finishing 6-4 both times.

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