Wayne Mardle excited for the start of Premier League Darts in Liverpool on Thursday
Sky Sports commentator Wayne Mardle cannot wait for the 10th edition of Premier League Darts to kick off on Thursday.
Last Updated: 04/02/14 7:11pm
The opening set of fixtures at the Echo Arena in Liverpool includes a mouth-watering clash between new world champion and world No 1 Michael van Gerwen and Phil Taylor, who the Dutchman beat in last year's final.
Mardle fancies van Gerwen to go all the way and defend his title but feels it would be foolish to write off Taylor, who was an early loser in the defence of his world crown at Alexandra Palace.
"It's going to be special, there is no doubt about that," Mardle told Sky Sports News. "The start of any Premier League is always something you have to watch because they always go at it.
"Everyone is up for it and thinking 'right, let's get off to a good start'.
"Michael van Gerwen has got it all, and he's got something that Taylor hasn't - that world title. Phil has to try and put that right and I think he might start that on Thursday.
"Michael can be anything, he can dominate. He's great already at such a tender age but he won't go on for 25/26 years like Phil Taylor already has - he's just a sporting freak.
"But you've got Adrian Lewis, who is still in his twenties, James Wade is only 30 so to dominate like Phil has is going to be difficult, but Michael has the mindset of a champion, a will to win right now.
"He might win seven or eight world titles, but not 16. No, never."
Taylor's exit to Michael Smith saw some pundits predicting the start of the end for the 16-time champion, but Mardle feels it will only inspire him in his bid for a seventh Premier League success,
"There was a point back in 2008 when people said 'that's it, his form has gone, his head's gone' but then he goes and wins another world title two years later," Mardle added.
"The thing with Phil Taylor is that he knows what it takes to be the best, he knows mentally he is better than anyone else and knows what it takes to beat an opponent.
"Sometimes it's not about being the better player, it's about being the better player at certain points in matches. Timing is everything. Never write off Phil Taylor. I think he'll probably reach the final of Premier League and I can't see four players keeping him out of the play-offs.
"He's ultra consistent, he won't average 110 in one game and 85 in the next. He'll flatline at 100 and if you play badly against him, you will lose. Michael Smith played brilliantly to beat him, Dave Chisnall played the game of his life when he beat him."
Chisnall makes his Premier League debut as one of four wildcards for the 2014 competition but Mardle is excited by the chances of another first-time selection, beaten world finalist Peter 'Snakebite' Wright.
"Peter is coming off the back of a runner-up spot at the World Championships and what he will bring to the stage is a bit of garishness - I thought my Hawaiian shirts were bad enough," Mardle said.
"He is one hell of a player. He can fire in the big scores and is a brilliant finisher. He has this calmness around him and once he settles into a game he gets into this robotic rhythm. He's going to be a brilliant asset."
But when it comes down to it, Mardle feels the result of this year's competition will match 2013 with van Gerwen again proving the master.
"Boringly, I cannot see beyond Michael van Gerwen and Phil Taylor reaching the final. They are going to sew up the No 1 and 2 spots in the league phase and that's the main thing.
"Once they are in the final, I think Michael wins it. I think he has Phil's number. I'm not saying it's the end of the line for Phil, because it's not, but Michael is the man for the occasion."
Watch the opening set of Premier League Darts fixtures live on Sky Sports 1 from 7:00pm on Thursday.