24 Aug, 2020

The Premier League resumes on Tuesday night in Milton Keynes, with a revised format seeing six consecutive nights of action played out at the Marshall Arena before a two day break, and then the staging of the remaining nights to take us right the way up to the finals.

Three Target players are in the hunt for the title in a particularly wide open contest this year, and all three can harbour serious ambitions of making it to the playoffs.

Below, we summarise the season so far for our players and what challenges they face following the four month delay due to Covid restrictions.

Rob Cross

Position: 8th

P6 W1 D3 L2

Next three games: Van Gerwen, Smith, Durrant

Last year's runner-up has had an inconsistent 2020, and it is reflected in his Premier League showing. "Voltage" has so far picked up points in more games than he has not, yet still finds himself second-last in the table.

Cross has a three point cushion between himself and bottom-placed Daryl Gurney, which should be enough for him to avoid elimination on Judgement Night (the third night of the opening six in Milton Keynes), but a couple of wins could catapult him up the table and into the playoff spots.

An encouraging Autumn Series saw him make a final and hit a nine-darter, as well as record some big averages, but a disappointing first round exit in the defence of his World Matchplay title suggests there is still work to be done to return to the form which saw him narrowly miss out on topping the league table in 2019.

After weeks of being at home on the practice board, using new darts, Cross may be ready to return to his brilliant best. However, it will be a stern examination for the reigning European Champion, as he faces the world number one on the opening night, with clashes to follow against the in-form Michael Smith and the current table-topper Glen Durrant.

Nathan Aspinall

Position: 4th

P6 W3 D1 L2

Next three games: Price, Gurney, Smith

Prior to the lockdown, "The Asp" was looking very good to make the playoffs in his debut Premier League campaign (with only Van Gerwen having a higher average in the tournament), but it is difficult to gauge just where his game is on the return to competitive action.

Despite adding the Home Tour to the two ranking titles he picked up in the early part of 2020, he also suffered a frustrating first round exit at the World Matchplay.

However, with only four points separating the top of the table and eighth position, Aspinall knows that he has to hit the ground running in order to maintain his current place in the playoff spots.

A victory on the opening night in Milton Keynes against Gerwyn Price would be a huge step towards a top four finish, and he may hope to take advantage of a potentially dispirited Gurney on Night Two.

There is no question that if the former UK Open Champion can recapture the form he was showing through the first part of the campaign, then he could well reach the playoffs in his first attempt. However, with the likes of World Champion Peter Wright and two-time Premier League winner Gary Anderson breathing down his neck, it could well go down to the final night of action.

Glen Durrant

Position: 1st

P4 D1 L1

Next three games: Wright, Van Gerwen, Cross

Sitting pretty at the top of the table after the opening six games, with only one defeat (Aspinall) and one draw (Fallon Sherrock) so far is the three-time Lakeside World Champion. "Duzza" has been very keen to point out his position to everyone on social media over the last few months, but if getting there was tough, staying there will be even tougher.

In previous years, holding top spot at this stage might be enough to convince most fans that a playoff spot is almost guaranteed, but two bad weeks could see Durrant tumble out of the top four altogether.

The thing with Glen is, he very rarely has two bad weeks. His ability to bounce back from any disappointment is legendary, and six nights of consecutive big stage action could be made for the Middlesbrough man.

Durrant was annoyed with himself for not picking up at least one title at the Summer Series, but showed how well he's playing with yet another major semi-final run at the World Matchplay. Indeed, it could have been even better, were it not for the inspired display of the eventual champion Dimitri Van den Bergh.

Three fellow World Champions await him in the opening three nights of action, starting with the reigning World Champ Peter Wright. "Duzza" managed to overcome "Snakebite" on the very same stage last month at the Matchplay, and if he repeats the trick, and can then pick up at least a point against MvG, he may well become favourite to top the league standings.

Only two men have achieved that feat before: Van Gerwen himself and Target's legendary Phil "The Power" Taylor. Do not rule out Durrant joining that elite club.

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