The Premier League Darts bandwagon rolls on, and Thursday, March 27 sees the O2 in Dublin host the latest round of fixtures.
This year's edition of the competition has thrown up a good number of surprises, with Phil Taylor enduring an uncomfortable ride during the early stages, including a 7-0 whitewash to Michael van Gerwen in the season's opener.
A mini revival from "The Power," including wins in the last two editions against Dave Chisnall (7-5) and Wes Newton (7-1), has seen a steady climb in the table, but more twists await.
Date: Thursday, March 27
Time: 7 p.m. GMT
TV Info/Live Stream: Sky Sports 2 HD, SkyGO app (U.K. only)
Whitlock in Need of Wizardry
If Taylor has witnessed a turnaround in fortunes, there's been no such luck for "The Wizard" Simon Whitlock. The Australian has been in miserable form, with just one win and a draw to show for his endeavours throughout this campaign.
Far too often Whitlock has failed to close out a leg, and it's no shock to see him sitting at the bottom of the pile based on the darts he has been throwing.
However, with next opponent Wes Newton having to play twice on the night, Whitlock may fancy his chances of snatching a much-needed victory to restore some confidence.
Newton missed the recent Exeter date due to tonsillitis and plays a double shift, allowing Robert Thornton a night off.
|Match 1||Phil Taylor vs. Raymond van Barneveld|
|Match 2||Michael van Gerwen vs. Peter Wright|
|Match 3||Adrian Lewis vs. Dave Chisnall|
|Match 4||Gary Anderson vs. Wes Newton|
|Match 5||Simon Whitlock vs. Wes Newton|
|Michael van Gerwen||7||5||1||1||11|
|Raymond van Barneveld||7||3||3||1||9|
Game of the night is surely Taylor's match against Raymond van Barneveld. The Dutchman is looking for a win himself, having drawn the last three.
Three wins and a loss had seen him among the early leaders in this year's competition, but the draws have seen him slide down to third in the table just a point above Adrian Lewis, who will fancy his chances against Chisnall.
Against Peter Wright, van Barneveld was in inspirational form, taking out 116, 108 and 156, and clawing his way back from 3-2 down to lead 6-4.
However, Wright, who is enjoying a storming debut season, produced some fine arrows of his own, and a 161 checkout was a fine way to pick up a point. Per PDC.tv, he noted:
I'm loving the Premier League and I want to perform for the fans every week. This is about entertaining the crowd and I think we did that tonight, and it's amazing for me to be part of the Premier League.
I really enjoyed the match, but with the way Raymond was taking out the big finishes I didn't think I was going to win but I wanted to jump on him when I got a chance and I never gave up.
After an unbelievable run of poor form that saw him lose the first three games of the tournament—his worst ever run, per PDC.tv—Taylor seems to have found his mojo again, and two wins on the spin in his last two outings set him up nicely for the match against old foe van Barneveld.
Per Darts Database, Taylor has a bit of a sign over the Dutchman in the Premier League, having beaten him 13 times and drawn twice. Importantly, the Englishman is yet to lose to van Barneveld in this form of the game.
Taylor told PDC.tv:
It's coming back and I'll hopefully get better each week. I've been chopping and changing my darts and my sponsors have backed me with all the little changes I've made.
I never doubted myself but I keep trying to improve myself and it's getting there. I'm not nervous any more whereas I was earlier in the season, because I wasn't quite comfortable.
Van the Man
Someone who is very comfortable indeed is world champion van Gerwen. The bald-headed arrowsmith has been on fire for most of the tournament, losing just once.
The win over Gary Anderson last time out was a little too close for comfort at 7-5, but van Gerwen's perseverance saw him take the match with a fine 11-dart finish.
While there is still a long way to go in the tournament, van Gerwen and Wright are beginning to pull away at the top, so the fact they meet each other in Dublin can let the likes of van Barneveld and Lewis back into the picture at the top of the table.
With two games on the night, Newton stands to benefit the most if he is victorious in both, as the battle to get into the top four places begins to really hot up.