The Premier League Darts enters its third last week tonight and the battle for playoff positions is reaching an exciting climax. The Premier League tours the UK and tonight eight of the world’s best darts players will descend on the Echo Arena in Liverpool.
As things stand, Phil Taylor has qualified for the playoffs, while Gary Anderson needs a solitary point to join him.
With four playoff places up for grabs, Raymond van Barneveld holds a three point advantage over his nearest rivals James Wade and Simon Whitlock. World champion Adrian Lewis sits one point behind again but has been struggling for form.
The night’s opening two matches have no bearing on playoff places, but the last two could have serious ramifications for four playoff hopefuls.
James Wade made a disappointing start to the Premier League, losing six of his first eight matches. The Machine has been rejuvenated in recent weeks, however, overcoming Lewis, Whitlock and Webster in consecutive weeks. Wade was especially impressive against Webster, averaging over 107 and throwing three 100 plus checkouts.
Van Barneveld has been in good form throughout the Premier League, but his old tendency to over-think mistakes and let leads slip was on show last week when he drew with Jenkins despite possessing a 6-4 lead. Barney annihilated Wade 8-2 in week 5, but Wade’s impressive form could be enough to triumph in a tight affair with the Dutchman.
The final match sees Lewis do battle with Whitlock. Lewis started the Premier League by blowing away Taylor 8-2, but his momentum has stalled in recent weeks. Jackpot has lost heavily to Wade, van Barneveld and Taylor in consecutive matches and suddenly finds his playoff position in serious doubt.
Whitlock has not been in imperious form, but has won three of his last four matches. The Wizard and Lewis both have the ability to score highly and hit doubles under pressure, making this match the toughest to predict. If either player finds a burst of form they could claim a valuable scalp, but a draw is a real possibility.
Mark Webster and Terry Jenkins are the only players with nothing to play for and their encounter will open proceedings. Jenkins showed great fighting spirit against Van Barneveld in week 11, forcing a 7-7 draw with a terrific bull finish. Webster, conversely, has endured a miserable debut season in the Premier League.
Hopes were high for Webster after he ousted Taylor from the World Championships in January. Webster, however, has only won two matches, lost seven on the bounce and has only won six legs in his last five matches. Jenkins has only managed two more points than his counterpart, but his steady play should be able to overcome the dispirited Welshman.
The battle of the league’s top two is the second match on stage. Anderson was in scintillating form last week, smashing the Premier League record for 180s with eleven maximums. The Flying Scotsman was guilty, however, of once again being lax taking his doubles. Careless finishing will cost him dearly against 15 times World Champion Phil Taylor.
Taylor has rebounded with aplomb after losing to former protégée Lewis in the first week, winning ten in a row. The Power averaged an impressive 107 against Lewis last week and was clinical with his doubles. Both players, as ever, will score highly, but Anderson’s doubles will cost him against Taylor.
Webster vs Jenkins: 5-8
Anderson vs Taylor: 5-8
Van Barneveld vs Wade: 6-8
Lewis vs Whitlock: 7-7