The 2016 edition of the Betway Premier League is nearing its conclusion, and time is running out for those who want to book their place at the O2.
Phil Taylor and Michael van Gerwen have already sealed their place, with Gary Anderson and Adrian Lewis holding third and fourth.
Both men only require one more win (in Anderson’s case a draw is enough) to reach the O2, and they will be hoping to seal their fate at the Manchester Arena.
James Wade vs Peter Wright
This match is essentially an eliminator, with the loser mathematically unable to reach the showpiece Finals Night in London.
Both men are sitting on 14 points in fifth and sixth position respectively, and the winner of this match will be requiring other games to go their way as well.
Wright gave himself a sniff of the O2 with a 7-4 victory over Phil Taylor last week; the first loss inflicted upon Taylor since the very first week of the competition.
‘Snakebite’ then returned to the stage to share the spoils with his fellow Scot, Gary Anderson, to lift himself level on points with Wade.
The 46 year old has changed his darts frequently in the tournament, but with three points and averages of 99.67 and 103.45, he may have finally found the right set.
Wade didn’t have such a great night himself in Birmingham, going down 7-1 to Michael van Gerwen.
‘The Machine’ played well, averaging 102.4, but could only stand and watch as van Gerwen delivered a darting masterclass, topped off with a 78% checkout rate.
Wade will be confident of getting the win he requires against a man he has beaten 14 times in 20 attempts, and put the pressure on those above him.
With the inconsistency that Wright can show, I will opt for the more reliable Wade, but expect a close game.
My Pick: James Wade
Gary Anderson vs Robert Thornton
Sitting in third with 18 points, a win here against Thornton would seal Gary Anderson’s place in the O2 in two weeks time.
Just like Wright, Anderson also picked up three points last week, beating Raymond van Barneveld before returning to play out the draw with Wright.
The unbeaten roll that ‘The Flying Scotsman’ went on from week four to week ten was crucial in determining his high position, and the defending champion will not want to waste any time in sealing his place.
Anderson averaged 99.19 in his 7-5 win over van Barneveld, but only had eight scores of over 140 in the match compared to the 18 thrown by his opponent. This won’t bother him with a win at this stage of the competition all that matters.
Robert Thornton’s fate has been sealed for a long time, and he was beaten 7-2 by London-bound Adrian Lewis last week.
Averaging 94.55 and hitting 20% on the doubles against a man like Lewis, even if he wasn’t at his best, is never likely to be good enough.
‘The Thorn’ can look back on this years competition with pride though, avoiding relegation when it seemed like a lost cause.
Anderson should get the job done here, and roll onto Rotterdam with his place in the Finals secured.
My Pick: Gary Anderson
Michael van Gerwen vs Raymond van Barneveld
Michael van Gerwen leapfrogged Phil Taylor and moved into first place last week with his win over James Wade, even if it is only on leg difference.
This puts van Gerwen in pole position to secure the £25,000 bonus prize for finishing top of the league phase; something Taylor has made no secret about looking to achieve.
It was just the 108.33 average for van Gerwen last week, who has repeatedly produced the highest quality of performances to see himself sitting top on 22 points.
There is something about playing ‘Mighty Mike’ that brings the best out of fellow Dutchman, and this was shown a matter of weeks ago when ‘Barney’ had match darts to get the win.
Another example of this is the 2016 World Championships, when van Barneveld sent van Gerwen packing at the Last 16 stage, with a 4-3 win.
With all that said, I still expect van Gerwen to reproduce last week’s form and sweep Barney aside.
My Pick: Michael van Gerwen
Phil Taylor vs Adrian Lewis
Taylor suffered his first loss since the very first week of the competition at the hands of Peter Wright in Birmingham, and it couldn’t have came at a worse time with his rival van Gerwen taking top spot.
If Taylor wins this match and the world number one can defeat Raymond van Barneveld, it would set up a top place showdown in Rotterdam, with both men sitting on 24 points with victories.
It wasn’t like ‘The Power’s’ level dropped last week, he still averaged 106.48 and took out four from his seven attempts at double, it just wasn’t to be his night.
Adrian Lewis got the win over Thornton last week, but wasn’t at his best.
Averaging 96.55 and only hitting one maximum, ‘Jackpot’ will be happy to have got the win and move a step closer to Finals Night.
With a win, Lewis would stamp his ticket for the O2, something he has only achieved twice to date, which is surprising given the talent the Stoke native possess.
The two England World Cup teammates have met 68 times overall, with Taylor winning 51 of those, including the 7-1 drubbing in Exeter.
I think Taylor wins this match, and sets up an exciting final match showdown with Michael van Gerwen.
My Pick: Phil Taylor