PLAY-OFF PLACES UP FOR GRABS AS BETWAY PREMIER LEAGUE VISITS MANCHESTER
GARY ANDERSON and Adrian Lewis can secure places in the Betway Premier League Play-Offs on the tournament's penultimate league night at The Manchester Arena on Thursday, as Dutch rivals Michael van Gerwen and Raymond van Barneveld face off.
With van Gerwen and Phil Taylor having already secured their places in the Play-Offs on May 19 in London, the final two places could be finalised on Night 14 in Manchester.
Reigning Premier League champion Anderson needs only to avoid defeat against fellow Scot Robert Thornton to extend his challenge to retain the coveted title - but he is taking nothing for granted despite his rival's lowly league position.
"I'm in a good position but I'm not there yet and I don't want any slip-ups," said Anderson. "I want to get four points from my last two games to make sure of the Play-Offs but I'll be focusing on Robert first. He's a great player and he can beat anyone on his day so I need to make sure I'm ready for him."
Fourth-placed Lewis, meanwhile, sits three points clear of James Wade and Peter Wright and knows that he can seal his semi-final berth by defeating Stoke rival Phil Taylor.
"It will be a great game," said Lewis, who has partnered Taylor to three World Cup of Darts pairs titles in the past four years. "I'll be up for it and I know he will too because he's fighting with Michael at the top of the table. I've been putting the work in on the practice board this week to get ready for this and my finishing's been good recently, so I can't wait."
2009 Premier League champion Wade and former World Championship finalist Wright will clash in Thursday's opening fixture in Manchester, with both players knowing that a defeat spells the end of their Play-Off challenge.
Wright, though, picked up three points as he doubled up in Birmingham last Thursday and said: "I've given myself a chance but both me and James know what's at stake this week so I'll be ready for him. I need to win my last two games to get into the Play-Offs and I'll be doing everything to do that. I'm playing well and I had a good weekend in the Players Championships in Barnsley, so I'm looking forward to it."
The night's other fixture sees Dutch rivals van Gerwen and van Barneveld - respectively the 2013 and 2014 Premier League winners - meet a week ahead of the tournament's visit to the Netherlands for the first time in Rotterdam.
While van Barneveld's defeat to Anderson last week ended his Play-Off hopes, van Gerwen's win against Wade moved him above Taylor to the top of the league table on leg difference in the battle to claim the 25,000 pound League Leader's Bonus.
"I've put the pressure on Phil again and we both want to finish top so this is another important match," said van Gerwen. "This is a tough league and one mistake can cost you, like when Phil lost last week, so I know I've got to make sure I'm ready for Raymond."
Michael van Gerwen (22pts) - has qualified for Play-Offs
Phil Taylor (22pts) - has qualified for Play-Offs
Gary Anderson (18pts) - Need to avoid defeat against Robert Thornton to mathematically qualify. If Wade & Wright draw, Anderson has qualified regardless of his result against Thornton.
Adrian Lewis (17pts) - Qualifies with a win. Would qualify with a draw if Wade & Wright draw.
James Wade and Peter Wright (14pts) - Defeat ends Play-Off chances. If they draw then they need Lewis to lose. Winner needs Anderson to lose or Lewis to draw or lose to keep Play-Off race alive.