McCoy's Premier League Darts - Night Seven Preview
Reigning McCoy's Premier League Darts champion Phil Taylor is looking to avoid an unwanted record when he meets Wes Newton at the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff on Thursday, as his rivals continue their challenges to avoid relegation next month.
Taylor suffered a second successive defeat last week when Andy Hamilton took a 7-3 victory in their clash at the Manchester Arena, which followed up the World Champion's narrow loss to Gary Anderson in Nottingham.
The Stoke great has never lost three successive matches since the Premier League was introduced in 2005, and taking his week four draw with James Wade into account, has only previously gone three weeks without victory on one occasion, with a run of two draws and a defeat in 2009.
He opened the 2008 season with three defeats in his opening four games before going on to take the title, and admitted: "I've had tough spells in the Premier League before and come through them and there's no reason why I can't do that again."
"Gary and Andy have played superbly in the last couple of weeks against me and deserved to win, and I know Wes will be on top of his game this week too. Every week's massive now and I'll be doing everything I can to get back winning again."
The game in Cardiff is also a crucial one for Newton, who knows that a defeat could prove a hammer blow to his hopes of escaping relegation after week nine.
Newton sits alongside Adrian Lewis on three points at the foot of the table with three games remaining before the bottom two are eliminated, but said: "I'll approach it with no pressure.
"I am where I am in the league table, and everyone expects Phil to win. Everybody wants to beat Phil - he's the best player there's ever been so hopefully I can do something."
"Every week I'm putting myself under pressure to get a result because I don't want to be where I am, but the standard in darts at the minute is unbelievable and the best ten players are here in the Premier League."
"I'm playing well and I'm just not getting the results, but I'll keep coming every week and trying my heart out."
World number two Lewis will play UK Open champion Robert Thornton in Cardiff, having kick-started his challenge with a win and a draw in the past fortnight.
"It's going to be a tough game," said Lewis. "Robert's obviously on form and it will be interesting because I'm feeling confident in my game."
"In the past few years I've tended to start slowly and get better as it gradually goes on, but this year you haven't got that chance because of relegation, and you've got to punish players as soon as you have the chance."
"I haven't been doing that, but I'm on the way up now. I'm two weeks unbeaten and I'm happy with that."
Thornton, who is fourth in the league table after an impressive start to his debut season, won a UK Open Qualifier in Wigan on Sunday and knows that he can ensure his survival in the event by taking a result in Cardiff.
"The bookies had me as one of the odds-on favourites to be eliminated and I think I've proved them wrong week after week," said Thornton.
"I'm going up there thinking I can win every game but I just want to enjoy each game and whatever happens will happen.
"Adrian's coming back into a bit of form but he's still letting a few darts slip, and I've got to try and keep my concentration and jump on that when he misses. He's got more to prove than I have and he's under pressure."
Third-bottom Gary Anderson, who has five points, will play second-placed Michael van Gerwen in Cardiff, with the 2011 Premier League champion having also picked up a win and a draw over the past fortnight.
"You take every point you can get, but you want to win every game and I'm excited about playing Michael," said Anderson, who hit a nine-dart finish in a Speedy Services UK Open Qualifier on Saturday.
"We played a couple of weeks ago and I was 3-1 up before he came back to win, and I know I can out-score him so it's just about when it comes down to the finishes, and if my doubles go in then I can walk away the winner."
Van Gerwen went on to win that UK Open Qualifier on Saturday - his third ProTour triumph of the year so far - and has picked up three victories and two draws from his opening six Premier League games during a brilliant start to his debut season.
"I've put myself in a good position because I'm on eight points and the pressure is on Gary this week, not me," said van Gerwen. "I want to win every game though and keep this going."
"I think I can do even better and I'll be working hard to do better, but I'm doing well at the moment and I'll be ready for Gary."
League leader Raymond van Barneveld is in confident mood as he prepares to play 2009 champion James Wade, who sits third in the league table despite his defeat to Simon Whitlock in Manchester.
"After six weeks I'm still top of the group and everything's good!" said van Barneveld. "At the moment I'm confident but it's a very open Premier League.
"Every week's tough, like a final, and you saw James lost last week to Simon Whitlock. It shows how well every player is playing."
The night's other game sees Andy Hamilton and Simon Whitlock, two players who are both on six points, looking to secure survival when they clash, with the Australian chasing a third successive victory.
"Andy's always tough and I'm going to have to play my best game again," said Whitlock. "Every single week you have to play at the top of your game, otherwise you'll get beaten.
"Last week's win was huge for me but there's no easy matches and it's tough every week."
Thursday's event at the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff is a 4,000 sell-out as fans flock to the Welsh leg of the tournament, which will be screened live on Sky Sports 2HD.
*Provided by Lawrence Lustig/PDC