Double-up in-form duo
Ben Coley previews Thursday night's Premier League darts and is tipping wins for Raymond van Barneveld and Simon Whitlock before the pair meet in the final match of the night.
- Related Content
Lewis has been made a marginal favourite to win what's the only certain dead-rubber of the night, but one wonders how seriously he'll take this match. For a twice-world champion resigned to eighth place in the standings, this game has ultimately no significance and punters prepared to chance a player who tends to be all or nothing at the best of times are taking a big risk. Hamilton is an altogether different character and could yet climb a spot in the standings, so I'd argue he's the player more likely to take this seriously and therefore a spot of value as the underdog. In addition, he put an end to a run of five straight defeats by beating James Wade 7-2 last week whereas Lewis has now lost six on the spin as he continues what's proving to be a prolonged search for top form. With all of this in mind, Hamilton would be the token call despite a 7-4 defeat to Lewis earlier in the competition. Jackpot is a worthy odds-on favourite to register more 180s than his opponent but again, he's not going to be primed for this and we could see some exhibition stuff at times. All things considered it should pay to focus on the matches that have a bearing on the rest of the competition.
The battle for fourth place begins here with Thornton knowing that two wins on the night will guarantee him a spot in the semi-finals. The trouble is, he faces van Barneveld before a clash with Michael van Gerwen and it's no surprise to see Sky Bet's 'who will reach the final four' betting priced as a genuine three-horse race. Raymond also has incentive to go at this as two victories would see him top the standings ahead of compatriot MVG and that's why I am more than happy to take 10/11 that he wins this game. Barney has been superb throughout the event, particularly when taking on slightly inferior players, and has therefore been very kind to favourite backers. His defeats have come only to van Gerwen and Phil Taylor, and finishing ahead of that pair in the standings would act as compensation for his failure to produce against them. Back-to-back victories have come courtesy of 100-plus averages and last week's checkout percentage of 58 was most encouraging. Thornton played reasonably well against Taylor despite managing just two legs but it's well over a month since he last edged past an average of 100 and he may need to do that to beat van Barneveld, who looks a 4/7 shot in my eyes.
Everything looks in favour of the Australian here. Not only is he one of the league's form players with four wins in five, but he takes on a man forced into a very quick return to the oche and with nothing really to play for. Before his opening clash with Hamilton, Lewis has lost 10 of 14 matches in a campaign which really hasn't got off the ground. Whitlock has a very real chance of getting through to the last four, which is a remarkable effort given how close he came to relegation on Judgement Night. Given that I expect Thornton to have already lost to van Barneveld, I expect Whitlock to have been given a real boost as he steps onto the stage. He's already beaten Lewis once this season and having upped his averages recently and checked out efficiently in beating Wade in a crucial game last week, I am happy to put my faith in Whitlock once more. A double on him and van Barneveld pays over 5/2 and that looks decent value.
No player in the competition has gained more points over their last five games than Taylor, who insists that he's working extremely hard to fend off the Dutch challenge and win another Premier League title. A dip in form saw some question whether he'd be able to do that but he's really found his game again lately, winning four from five, and was utterly ruthless against Thornton last week. That spells trouble for Wade, who has gone from a position of strength to one of vulnerability after a trio of defeats prior to his final game of this phase. What happens before this match will have a great bearing on its significance, and Wade could well make the last four with a defeat, but chances are he'll need something. The positives are that he really produced the goods in playing out a 6-6 draw with Taylor earlier on in the campaign, and Taylor was beaten by Stuart Kellet in Wigan on Sunday, but Taylor is in better shape than he was in Exeter and is a very different beast in front of the cameras. With that in mind, Wade's best hope may be a draw and at 9/2 that's arguably the value, but even at 7/2 it's hard to build a case for a player who has lost all momentum and will likely be sweating it out for favours from elsewhere.
MVG's assault on the competition got back on tracks last week with a 7-4 victory over Hamilton, and with just one game to focus on in Newcastle he has to be a strong fancy here. Thornton will already have had to play van Barneveld - and in my opinion he'll lose that game - and may well be there for the taking for a player who was in electric form at the weekend yet again. One positive for Thornton backers is that the only time he's been asked to play twice in a night so far he managed to win both games, but with due respect those victories came against relegated pair Hamilton and Lewis - this task is an altogether tougher one. As with the above game, when these two met in phase one a 6-6 draw was the result. However, van Gerwen has played 13 times since, winning 10 and drawing zero and there's only been one draw in phase two of the competition. Ultimately this is a game with a very strong favourite and a player whose earlier game will have a huge bearing on it, so the advice has to be no bet.
At bigger than 2/1, Whitlock catches the eye given how well he's playing, but if earlier results have gone against him this game could mean nothing. He's a consummate professional and will give his all regardless, but there's absolutely nothing to be gained from taking a firm view on this game given how much depends on earlier events. Similar comments apply to van Barneveld, who could potentially need victory to top the standings. He's clearly determined to do so, and if that's the case - and Whitlock has been eliminated - then he'd become of interest at a shade of odds-on. At this stage, this game is simply not a betting medium.