Premier League Darts - week eight preview
WES NEWTON will double up on Thursday for one of the biggest nights of his career as the Premier League Darts visits Dublin, where top two Michael van Gerwen and Peter Wright clash alongside great rivals Phil Taylor and Raymond van Barneveld.
The penultimate night of league action before the bottom two players are relegated from the event features five huge contests, including Newton competing in two matches after missing the league night in Exeter earlier in March with tonsillitis.
Newton has slipped to second bottom in the table with 7-1 defeats to van Gerwen and Taylor over the past two weeks, but plays Gary Anderson and Simon Whitlock in two huge games at the bottom end of the table.
2011 Premier League Darts winner Anderson slipped to seventh with a defeat last week and is only a point ahead of Newton, while Australian ace Whitlock is two points adrift at the foot of the table.
"It's a massive night for me and probably one of the biggest of my career," said Fleetwood's Newton. "The Premier League's massive and I'm determined to do well - not just to avoid relegation but to be fighting for the title in May.
"I'm feeling good and in the last two games I've played quite well and had ton-plus averages but come up against Phil and Michael when they've really been on form, and they're the top two players in the world.
"I'm scoring well but I've been punished for missing the odd double here and there recently, so if I can take those chances this week then it should be a different story.
"I'm going out to win both matches, but whatever happens against Gary I've got to re-focus and get ready to play Simon because every leg in each match could be crucial.
"It's a weird feeling, because if I win both matches then I could be in a really good position but if the results don't go my way then I know I'm in the relegation scrap next week."
Whitlock has picked up just one win and a draw so far this season, but is refusing to give up on his fight to escape relegation.
"It has been a difficult campaign for me but I'm still in with a chance," said the Australian. "I know that I'll have to win my last two games but I also know that I've got what it takes to do that.
"The target in Dublin is to make sure I take it to the last night and, after the poor start I had, that will be a mini-achievement in itself.
"I feel like a should've got a couple more points at least but I won't dwell on that. That's the standard of this Premier League - if you don't take your chances, your opponent will and I just need to make sure I take mine against Wes."
At the other end of the table, the league's top two players - van Gerwen and Wright - meet in a repeat of January's World Championship final.
Van Gerwen took a 7-4 sets victory that day, but Wright insists he has come of age since competing in his first major televised final, where he allowed the Dutchman into a four-set lead.
"In the World Championship final I was a scared little boy, but I think I've turned into a man now in darting terms," said Wright, the league's only unbeaten player following seven weeks.
"The Premier League's definitely helped my game and I believe I can beat anybody in the world now, no matter who they are.
"A couple of weeks ago I looked at the league table and I was hoping that we would be first and second in the table going to Dublin. I'm looking to get my revenge on him this time!"
Wright had opened the season at odds of 4/1 to be relegated from the tournament, but is now 8/1 with sponsors Betway to lift the title in May.
"I don't want to lose a match up to Week Nine when we have relegation, because that would be an amazing achievement in this field," added the Scot, who snatched a draw with van Barneveld last week with a 161 finish in the game's final leg.
"I couldn't dream this at the start of the season, and before the tournament I was probably one of the favourites to be relegated, so for me to perform the way I am and enjoy these crowds is amazing.
"I'm trying to go up there and entertain the fans as well as perform well."
Van Gerwen's victory over Gary Anderson in Leeds last week saw him join Wright on 11 points, as the Dutchman moved top on Leg Difference ahead of his rival.
"I'm really up for it," said van Gerwen, who hit a nine-dart finish during last weekend's Players Championship events in Crawley.
"We're level and it's very close and he's done very well so far this season - but he did well in the World Championship and I was the best at the end and he has to live with that.
"Peter likes to have a bit of fun and has been reminding me that he was unbeaten and top of the league - but you still need to do it on the stage and let your darts do the talking, and we'll see who's the best this week in Dublin!"
Another huge contest sees great rivals Phil Taylor and Raymond van Barneveld meet in Dublin - having shared the points with a draw when they clashed at The O2 in last year's event.
Taylor has won his last two games to move onto six points in the league table, and followed up last week's stunning win over Newton with a brilliant weekend of darts as he won a Players Championship in Crawley and lost in a second final.
"I've been trying different things with my darts and it's coming together," said the 16-time World Champion. "I'm not in that bottom two now, and it's a relief because it's the worst feeling to be down there - but it's still very close and it'll be a battle over the next two weeks.
"Every time you say "Taylor v Barney" it brings a smile to my face because I love playing Barney and I always will, the same as playing against Jocky Wilson, John Lowe and Eric Bristow.
"There's something about playing Barney that I love - I think it's darts' equivalent of the Man U v Liverpool match on paper. It's a game I enjoy playing and I get a real buzz out of it."
Van Barneveld admitted: "I have exactly the same feeling about playing Phil, and especially this week in Dublin because it's a fantastic venue and the Irish fans are always brilliant.
"If I play the game like I did last week against Peter, there's no reason why I can't beat Phil and I'm going to have a good match with him.
"I've been practising hard to keep my finishing sharp. Against every player now you have to hit your finishes, but especially against Phil."
The night's other game sees two-time World Champion Adrian Lewis take on Dave Chisnall, who was the World Grand Prix finalist last October in his most recent visit to Dublin but sits above Newton only on Leg Difference going into the eighth league night of his debut Premier League Darts season.
The Premier League Darts will be a 10,000 sell-out at The O2 in Dublin on Thursday, with coverage live on Sky Sports HD from 7pm.
Premier League Darts
March 27, The O2, Dublin
Gary Anderson v Wes Newton
Adrian Lewis v Dave Chisnall
Wes Newton v Simon Whitlock
Michael van Gerwen v Peter Wright
Phil Taylor v Raymond van Barneveld
Tickets: SOLD OUT