Too close to call
Sky Bet's Craig Ibbotson runs through what promises to be an intriguing opening night of the Premier League.
By Craig Ibbotson
Last Updated: 07/02/13 6:14pm
The new look Premier League kicks-off tonight in Belfast and looks to be the highest quality field ever assembled.
While the headline clash between Phil Taylor and Michael van Gerwen promises to provide the fireworks, all five ties look like they could go either way, reflected in the betting with not a single player odds-on to start with a win.
Andy Hamilton (11/8) v Robert Thornton (11/8)
Hamilton has continued his consistent form throughout the latter stages of 2012 and will be confident of another good showing in the 2013 Premier League. Thornton is a one of three debutants and will be looking to start with a bang but, with his poor form in the World Cup and his opponent's consistency, could find himself up against it. We have laid constant business on Hamilton for this fixture and it is hard to see past him given his experience in the event.
James Wade (5/4) v Wes Newton (6/4)
This looks to be a belter of a game. Both players just get on with it and it promises to be just as good as the recent World Championships quarter-final between the two. Wade won on that occasion, but expect the shorter format to play into Newton's hands. I fully expect an upset here with Newton running out victorious. However, our punters disagree and the weight of the money has been for favourite Wade.
Raymond van Barneveld (11/10) v Gary Anderson (7/4)
Both players have had disappointing spells of form in the last couple of years for various reasons but have shown signs of getting back to their best of late. Expect a quick game and lots of 180s as both players throw fast and enjoy a fast pace, the result of the match will ultimately come down to who can find the consistency on the doubles. It's a hard one to call either way but our punters look to favour Barney currently.
Simon Whitlock (11/8) v Adrian Lewis (11/8)
Both players endured a dip of form at the recent World Cup last weekend but neither can be dismissed in any format of the game. They both have a record of raising their games on the big stage and this is no exception, so expect them to recapture their best form in Belfast tonight. Whitlock has the better consistency on the doubles and this might just enable him to edge the tie, especially given Lewis's history of starting the year slowly.
Phil Taylor (11/10) v Michael van Gerwen (13/8)
A repeat of the outstanding World Championship final in January and deserves all the billing it receives for tonight. Both players in spectacular form at the moment and it will be no surprise to see all the sparks of the Worlds final yet again. Taylor edged it on that occassion but van Gerwen is such a quick starter that I expect to see the Dutchman to be in front at the break - the question is can he hold off the Taylor comeback? Van Gerwen for me in what promises to be the launch pad the Premier League wants.