Whitlock resurgence to continue
Ben Coley previews this week's Premier League darts action and fancies Simon Whitlock to beat James Wade.
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Michael van Gerwen v Andy Hamilton
Mighty Mike's assault on the Premier League suffered a minor blip last week at the hands of a resurgent Simon Whitlock. MVG led the Australian 5-3 only to lose four consecutive legs for his first defeat in six, but a weekend demolition job in another UK Open qualifier suggests the defeat hasn't knocked his confidence. Hamilton, in contrast, is desperately searching for belief having lost all four matches in phase two of the competition. Of the eight players remaining, only Adrian Lewis has a lower average and a lower checkout percentage, all of which spells trouble for a player who managed an average of just 87.31 last week. Simply put, it's close to impossible to see beyond van Gerwen and BetVictor's evens about MVG -3.5 legs on the handicap really isn't the worst bit of business you'll see. The best bet for those looking for short priced accumulators though is arguably Sky Bet's 8/13 about van Gerwen throwing the most 180s, given that he tops the season-long charts some 17 throws - over one per game on average - ahead of Hamilton. All things considered there's little value to be found, though, and we'll move on.
James Wade v Simon Whitlock
This game will have real implications on who makes the final four of the competition. Whitlock looked to have too much to do when he arrived at phase two but three victories from four have put him back in with a chance of making the play-offs for a second successive year. Realistically, he's going to need to win this game and at 15/8 I'm backing him to do just that. His averages have improved considerably over the last three weeks and I'm prepared to ignore his defeat to Phil Taylor last week, given that it came on the same night he'd expended so much mental energy in coming from behind to beat the game's hottest player. With that out of the way, I fancy Whitlock to produce the goods and beat Wade for the second time this campaign. The Machine has been in good form himself but was no match for Raymond van Barneveld last week, and his averages over the last fortnight have been lower than Whitlock's. At the weekend, he was thumped by Mervyn King away from the cameras and while Whitlock also exited at the same stage, his defeat was in an all-the-way contest with Adrian Lewis. Put simply, Whitlock's recent form is better than Wade's, there's arguably less pressure on him as making the play-offs would be a bonus, and he's beaten Wade once in this year's competition already. At 15/8, he has to rate the value.
Phil Taylor v Robert Thornton
As former colleague Reece Killworth noted in his outright preview, Taylor is the best qualified when it comes to getting the job done in this competition. That's why, despite some uncharacteristic mistakes earlier on this season, he's now unbeaten in four and going about his business quietly and efficiently while MVG grabs the headlines. Averages of 105.24 and 103.35 were more than enough for two wins last week, the latter particularly commendable, and he's got a point to prove against Thornton having been outplayed when they met in Brighton. The Scot has everything to play for, lying as he does in fifth place in what's been a terrific debut. The regularity with which he's hit treble 20 has been one of the features of the season, but even more impressive, as I've touched upon, have been his high finishes. That wasn't the case last week with a best of 83 but a trio of 180s helped him to a pretty straightforward win. He could do with another huge performance here as his two remaining games after this are against Dutchmen. He's up against it. That being said his proximity to Taylor in the standings and earlier defeat of him make odds of 4/1 appear slightly disrespectful. I can't quite bring myself to back him given Taylor's progressive form but those who require an interest should put their faith in the impressive 45-year-old.
Raymond van Barneveld v Adrian Lewis
RVB was understandably delighted with his demolition job over Wade last week, one inspired by what he considered to be overzealous words from his opponent. With three games left, all of which he'll be favourite to win, a place in the play-offs looks a near formality and on all recent form that's exactly what this game should be. Lewis has been out of sorts all season bar a mini-revival to avoid relegation and make this phase. He now has no chance to make the last four, though, so pride is the only thing at stake. The weekend saw him produce some better darts in the UK Open qualifier, though, and that bodes well for backers. In fact, Lewis led MVG 5-2, had a bounce-out for the win, only to lose 6-5. Clearly, if he can produce that sort of form back on the big stage quotes of 4/1 will look generous but I'm not yet convinced, particularly given the lack of incentive here. However, much more reliable is the Dutchman and if you can get the bits of 11/10 about him registering more 180s than his opponent then that's worth doing.
James Wade v Andy Hamilton
Sorry to sound like a broken record, but these secondary games are ones to tread carefully with. Should Hamilton lose his earlier clash then all hope of making the last four will have well and truly gone, while if Wade were to arrive on the back of victory he'd have one foot in the last four - circumstances will alter the dynamic of the game. There has, however, been a continuing theme across the secondary games - they've all been drawn-out affairs. Four of the five have gone the distance and the other has lasted 11 legs, so bet365's 5/4 about more than 10.5 legs is well worth taking. There were 11 legs when this pair met in Aberdeen, and five from Wade's last seven games have lasted more than 10.5 legs. Hamilton's recent record reads five from six so at the price it's a simple decision.