WADE AND TAYLOR DOUBLE UP AS TUNGSTEN STARS VISIT STEEL CITY
JAMES WADE and Phil Taylor will double up as the second half of the Betway Premier League season kicks off at The Sheffield Arena on Thursday night.
Following the elimination of Dave Chisnall and Michael Smith on Judgement Night in Cardiff last week, the remaining eight players continue their push to claim Play-Off places over the remaining six league nights.
2009 Premier League champion Wade, who turned 33 on Wednesday, will kick off Thursday night against Raymond van Barneveld before returning to the stage to face Taylor in the final contest of the evening as he bids to celebrate his birthday in style.
Having won five and drawn one of his opening nine games, the left-hander is well-placed to challenge for a Play-Off spot over the coming weeks and is determined to maintain his strong recent form.
"It's been okay so far this season but I know that I don't need to fix anything, I just need to play darts like James Wade can. If I don't, then I won't make the top four," said Wade, who regularly takes advice from darts legend Eric Bristow.
"I've had three wins and a draw in my last four games so there is momentum there, but I've got to keep working hard because I know Eric will be in my ear telling me I can't keep bumbling along!"
League leader Taylor begins his double-header on Thursday against World Champion and reigning Premier League champion Gary Anderson, who sits a point adrift of the Stoke legend in the standings.
"I love playing Gary and this will be another big match because we're getting into the business end of the season now," said Taylor, who won 7-4 when the pair met in Dublin on Night Three.
"I think I need another couple of wins to be sure of getting to The O2 and I'm pushing for that now because I really want to qualify. I've done okay so far and only lost once, so I know my game's in good shape."
World number one Michael van Gerwen plays Robert Thornton as the Dutchman bids to get back to winning ways after draws in his past three matches, including a stalemate against the Scot in Liverpool a fortnight ago, saw him overtaken in the league table by Taylor.
"I've not been at my best in the last three weeks and I've made too many mistakes, but this is a new game and I'll make sure that I'm ready for Robert," said van Gerwen. "His confidence is high after the last couple of weeks so I know I'll have to play my best darts. We always have fantastic matches so I won't be taking him lightly and I'm determined to get back to winning ways and back to the top of the table."
The night also sees fourth-placed Adrian Lewis taking on Peter Wright, who picked up his first victory in six games in Cardiff a week ago as he eliminated Chisnall with a narrow 7-5 triumph.
"I've got to knuckle down and I've definitely got to be more ruthless," said Wright. "I'm still trying to find the right set-up with my darts and I've been chopping and changing - I'm trying to find the perfect set-up for me personally."
Lewis, meanwhile, is aiming to maintain his challenge for a Play-Off spot over the next six weeks, and said: "Compared to where I've been at this stage in previous years, it's probably the best I've performed but I want to keep this going. I'm going to put the work in now over the next few weeks because I'm aiming for the Play-Offs. There have been games where I've scored well but not finished well, and other games where I've finished well but not scored well, so hopefully I can put that together."