Premier League Darts Week 15 Preview - Dave Allen
THE final two places in the Premier League Darts Play-Offs will be confirmed on Thursday night, with Phil Taylor and Gary Anderson in pole position to claim semi-final places as Peter Wright waits to pounce should they slip up at the Brighton Centre.
Former Premier League Darts champions Taylor and Anderson enter the last of 15 league nights sat just a point ahead of Wright, the World Championship finalist who slipped out of the top four for the first time in his debut season a week ago.
Wright takes on Michael van Gerwen in their final league game at the Brighton Centre on Thursday, and knows that should Taylor or Anderson fail to win earlier in the evening, the door will be open for him to claim a top four finish.
Six-time Premier League champion Taylor missed a dart to defeat Wright last week in Newcastle - a result which would have sealed his semi-final spot - but is in confident mood after overcoming his rocky start to soar up to third with a ten-game unbeaten run.
"After my start, when everybody wrote me off, it would be great to qualify," said Taylor. "You want to play well and win, but I was under a bit of pressure at the start of the season and my practice game hasn't always gone up on stage.
"I'm making it hard work for myself but I'm enjoying it. It's up to me to win this week and it's really exciting."
Thornton had taken victory when he faced Taylor in Brighton in the Premier League last season, and the 16-time World Champion has been impressed with the Scot's determined finish to the campaign, despite being unable to reach the Play-Offs.
"He's a battler and he doesn't give in, and he's got massive pride which he's shown in the last few weeks," added Taylor.
"It will be a tough match because he's one of the men in form, and I'd probably be happy with a draw - but I want to win."
2011 Premier League champion Anderson takes on second-placed Raymond van Barneveld as he seeks to secure his own semi-final berth at The O2 next week, having won four and drawn two of his last six matches.
"I'm not quite there yet but it's in my hands," said Anderson, who defeated Dave Chisnall 7-4 in Newcastle a week ago.
"I've lost some games this season that I shouldn't have lost but I've just got to beat Raymond this week.
"I was more worried about playing Dave last week - because he had nothing to lose - than I am about Raymond, but my scoring's been great and my finishing percentage for the tournament is probably better than most of the other players."
Should either Taylor or Anderson fail to win their games earlier in the night, Wright could cap his own debut Premier League Darts campaign with a Play-Off place when he takes on league leader Michael van Gerwen.
"I won't give up and I've shown my fighting spirit this season," said Wright, who was unbeaten for seven weeks until he went down 7-5 to van Gerwen in Dublin.
"I've still not played the best darts I can, but you've got to get up there and fight in every single leg. I know that if I turn up with my game, I'll win. In practice my darts have been going really well, so Michael will have to play well to beat me."
Reigning champion van Gerwen had taken offence to Wright's tactic of stopping and turning to the crowd when on a crucial double when they met in Dublin in March.
Wright insists that he would play to the crowd again if he has the chance in Brighton - despite van Gerwen saying: "He's a good player and he doesn't need to do the funny things on stage.
"At the World Championship, he played normally and did well, but if he wants to do that then it's his problem, not mine.
"Peter played really well at the start of the Premier League but he still needs to try to qualify for the Play-Offs and he's got to try to beat me.
"I just want to win every game, no matter who it's against, and try to be as successful as possible. I'm feeling good.
"I'm here to try and win the Premier League so it's good that I'm in the Play-Offs, but I want to finish the season with a win and make sure I'm top of the table too."
The night's other contest sees Chisnall end his maiden Premier League campaign against Lewis, who picked up his first win in nine games by defeating Thornton last week to ensure he would finish in sixth place.
"I want to finish well," said Lewis. "I know I'll finish sixth so I'll take the positives out of last week's win and try to perform well against Dave.
"Even though I can't qualify, it's important to finish as well as I can in the Premier League to finish the season on a high and set me up for the rest of the year."
Thursday's Premier League Darts will be shown live on Sky Sports 2HD from 7pm BST, with live coverage also being shown in the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Australia, New Zealand and the Middle East, as well as online through www.LIVEPDC.TV for International Pass Subscribers.
Premier League Darts
May 15, The Brighton Centre
Dave Chisnall v Adrian Lewis
Gary Anderson v Raymond van Barneveld
Robert Thornton v Phil Taylor
Peter Wright v Michael van Gerwen
Tickets: 0844 847 1515 or www.brightoncentre.co.uk
Michael van Gerwen (22pts) - Has qualified for Play-Offs, finishes top with a point.
Raymond van Barneveld (20pts) - Has qualified for Play-Offs, could still finish top of the table but could also drop to fourth depending on results in Brighton.
Phil Taylor (18pts) - Qualifies for Play-Offs with a win.
Gary Anderson (18pts) - Qualifies for Play-Offs with a win.
Peter Wright (17pts) - Needs Taylor or Anderson to draw or lose and then to better their result to qualify.