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Premier League Darts: The Panel
Premier League Darts is back so SKY have asked their panel some vital questions
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Rod Studd, John Part and Wayne Mardle answer our questions ahead of the new Premier League Darts season, which starts in Newcastle on Thursday.

Ten high-quality players enter the field for the £825,000 tournament which includes former champions Michael van Gerwen, Phil Taylor, Gary Anderson, James Wade and Raymond van Barneveld.

The season will see the 10 players face each other once over the opening nine weeks before the bottom two players are eliminated following Judgement Night on March 30. The remaining eight players then compete over the remaining six league nights for places in the top four to progress to the Play-Offs at The O2 in London on Thursday May 18, with the semi-finals and final deciding the 2017 champion.

Sky Sports will be at the forefront of the coverage from week-to-week, across the United Kingdom and Ireland, as well as another trip to The Netherlands. We've asked our panel questions which have been on all our lips ahead of Thursday's big opening night in Newcastle.

Phil Taylor - can he enjoy a glorious final year?

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Rod Studd: Phil will have noticed Roger Federer winning the Australian Open. Federer has had to deal with the exact same problem as Phil - having to accept he's no longer the world No 1. Federer never lost his belief that he could win, and he showed that last weekend, which was marvellous. Phil will draw inspiration from that. He's got to accept he's not the best player in the world, but that doesn't mean he can't win a tournament. He's got a fantastic record in the Premier League.
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John Part: By Phil's standards he didn't have the greatest year in 2016 so I think he will have a better year this time around with that sort of exit plan in mind. He can set himself up for big efforts everywhere and although it might wear him out a little bit, I think he will have a good year. He will find a way to get into the top four and once he's there, he's always got a chance on the night, but I won't predict him winning it.

Wayne Mardle: It's unlikely. I think he will reach a few major finals, but the likes of Michael van Gerwen and Gary Anderson are constantly too good for him. I'd like to see him win one, I've got to say. I think he should go out being remembered as the most successful player we've ever seen.

MVG - how do you stop him?
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Rod Studd: He's looked invincible but he has lost 10 matches in the past four years of the Premier League. So it's not like he's winning every match, although he only lost once last year, in the first night against James Wade. It's inconceivable that he won't be in the top four, putting him in the semi-finals, and he's only lost one televised knock-out match in a calendar year. He's overwhelming favourite but there's a lot of players who believe they can beat him.
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John Part: You have to be perfect against him to beat him. The concentration levels have to be just right and you can't get nervous about it. Once he gets beat a few times then he will start to show more vulnerability but I don't think it's an impossible task stopping him, but just needs to be done somehow by somebody.

Wayne Mardle: I've got no idea but the worrying thing is that the players playing him week in, week out have also got no idea. Gary Anderson is by far the second best player in the world and he just can't get anywhere near him. It's a worrying time for the others and it is basically Phil Taylor all over again.

A dark horse?
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Rod Studd: Dave Chisnall. A couple of years ago he made the semi-finals and had a couple of doubles to beat Gary Anderson, so he could do it again. Chizzy played excellently at the World Championships and was unlucky to lose against Anderson. To throw another name at you - Jelle Klaasen, who finished bottom of the Premier League in 2009 but is a much better player now. If he can get on a roll, he could do something.

John Part: It looks to me like the hardest Premier League ever to predict. I think the dark horse type of players will be too busy trying to stay in the thing, that I don't see it as a dark horse year - it's going to be more of a front-runner year. More than ever, the darts are going to have to do the talking.
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Wayne Mardle: I think Barney is the one. He should make the play-offs and is always good value. He's forever underestimated by the bookmakers having reached so many semi-finals and finals since 2007. In my opinion he could go and win the Premier League again, just like he did in 2014.

Which location are you excited for, and why?
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Rod Studd: Rotterdam. Last year, we saw Van Gerwen play Taylor then Barney get a spine-tingling reception. It was magical. I just loved how the Dutch fans embraced the whole atmosphere. It was a carnival atmosphere, there were bands playing in the street, the Dutch fans were bedecked in orange. Orange shirts, orange hats, orange trousers! I'm really looking forward to seeing Van Gerwen return as the world champion, he'll get a magnificent reception.

John Part: Cardiff. Judgement Night at the Motorpoint Arena because you have no idea whose head will be on the block. I remember Cardiff being an excellent venue. The Welsh are wonderful darts fans, and I know we get excited about the event going to Europe, but don't forget about Wales. They turn out in numbers and they love it.

Wayne Mardle: It has to be Rotterdam again. I was absolutely gobsmacked last year. I couldn't believe the atmosphere was so electrifying - it was brilliant. I'm looking forward to that again and maybe in the coming years we will go to Germany and that will kind of raise the stakes again. Before Rotterdam it was always Glasgow because Gary Anderson was world champion and it was just special, but last year watching Barney walk on in Rotterdam was spine-tingling.

How will the new boys survive?
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Rod Studd: If forced to bet, I would bet on Klaasen to finish above Huybrechts because he's got more firepower. They've both played in the Premier League once before and they both finished bottom, so it's not a surprise that the bookmakers have made them favourites to finish in the relegation zone. Jelle is playing better than Kim, and has more pizzazz, so I think he'll finish above him.

John Part: They've been there before so they know how to survive. I certainly think they have a game and they're able to step up. It's all about consistency and being able to step up - the Premier League is a tough business. I see a pretty wide open battle to stay in it and avoid relegation at Judgement Night. We might just be surprised by who exits.

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Wayne Mardle: I'm concerned more so for Kim Huybrechts than Jelle Klaasen. I think Jelle is playing better than James Wade and Adrian Lewis right now. Huybrechts, for me, has not played well for a while. He's consistently averaging between 90 and 95 or 96 and I just don't think that is good enough. I'm concerned already before the start. You can't forget the previous week, it's impossible. Three or dour defeats in the first five weeks would be an absolute disaster for Kim Huybrechts - it's a grind.
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