Fab Four To Put On A Show At The O2

Premier League Darts Preview: Fab Four To Put On A Show At The O2

2017-05-15
Preview of the Premier League darts play-offs at the O2 Arena.

The Premier League darts play-offs take place at the O2 Arena on Thursday night with 16-time world champion Phil Taylor targeting a memorable finish to a tournament he has dominated.

Earlier this year, Taylor, 56, announced he would be bringing the curtain down on his trophy-laded career after the 2017 World Championship at Alexandra Palace.

A professional since 1986, Taylor has won 15 World Matchplays, 11 Grand Prixs, six Grand Slams and is into triple figures for overall titles.

Added to that the first televised nine-dart finish and 18 more in PDC competition, no-one - not even the swashbuckling Michael van Gerwen - can match Taylor's achievements.

Taylor also has six Premier League titles to his name and has reached the final in eight of the 12 years since it was formed in 2005.

Already the most popular player on the planet, Taylor has received raucous send-offs from arenas all over Britain so far this year, with the roof possibly coming off the 02 should he make it seven Premier League crowns.

Commitments in events such as the Premier League will allow fans all over the country to say farewell to the man more responsible than anyone for the popularity darts now has as he heads towards the end of the year.

Once regarded as a pub sport played by beer-swillers in smoky rooms, it is now played out to live audiences of thousands and TV audiences of millions, thanks in no small part to Taylor's enduring success and popularity.

‘The Power’ booked his place in the play-offs with a 7-5 win over Adrian Lewis in Aberdeen last week and meets Peter Wright in the semi-final, with van Gerwen taking on Gary Anderson.

Taylor is the 10/1 rank outsider for the crown with van Gerwen the 13/25 favourite, while Wright and Anderson are 4/1 and 11/2 respectively.

Taylor, who has won 20 of his 32 meetings with Wright, told the PDC website: “I’m over the moon to get to the O2. It’s an extra bonus for me, I didn’t expect to get there to be honest so it’s massive.

“There’s no pressure on me but I’m going to be trying to win it and I’ve done it six times before. I’ll have a massive smile on my face because I’ve been dedicated for 30 years and it’s time for me to move on but I’m in it to win it and I’m looking forward to it.

“If I can go out there and win my seventh Premier League title it will be brilliant.”

Wright, having finished second in the table, is participating in the play-offs for the first time and beat Taylor 7-3 in the competition when they last met in Birmingham.

Taylor’s big-game experience could well give him the edge, although he starts as the 13/8 underdog to reach the final, with Wright the favourite at 1/2.

This one has all the hallmarks of going down to the wire and Wright is 17/2 to prevail 10-8 or 15/2 to win a decider, with Taylor 17/2 and 12/1 respectively to do likewise.

Odds of 8/5 are available for at least 18 legs in the match and 37/10 for 19.

Wright said: “I’ve qualified for the top four for the first time and I’m happy with that.

“I’m pinching myself thinking I’m in that top four alongside Phil, Gary and Michael – it’s crazy. My form’s coming and I’ve got another week to get it right for the O2.”

Wright arrives in London having seen his chances of scooping a fourth European Tour event of the year ended by eventual winner Michael Smith in the semi-finals of the Gibraltar Trophy at the weekend.

Van Gerwen and Anderson meet for the second successive week after the Dutchman came out on top with a 7-4 win in Aberdeen.

‘Mighty Mike’ has reached the last four finals – his two wins coming against Taylor in 2013 and 2016 – with Anderson prevailing in the 2015 showpiece and Raymond van Barneveld winning in 2014.

Van Gerwen topped the league table for the fifth year in a row and is the 3/10 favourite to advance to the final once more, with Anderson priced at 51/20.

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“It was really tough this year,” said Van Gerwen. “Peter was in my shadow all the way through and fair play to him. It was really important to me [to finish top].

“I look forward to the O2. It’s the top four darts players in the world and I can’t wait. It’s always a good game against Gary and I feel good.”

The meeting between Van Gerwen and Anderson is a repeat of the finals in the World Grand Prix, World Championship and Masters over the past year, with the Dutchman winning all three.

Van Gerwen has won 27 of his 43 battles with Anderson, who has 14 wins, with two ending in a draw.

Indeed, Anderson has only beaten his Dutch rival once in the last nine encounters, with his seven losses mostly ranging from a three to six-leg difference.

With that in mind, Van Gerwen to win by four legs or more is priced at 26/25 with 3/5 quoted for an MVG victory by more than three.

While Anderson has the ability to start fast and pummel the 180s, he also has a tendency to go off the boil – something he can ill afford against Van Gerwen, who has not been himself recently either.

Before beating Anderson in Scotland, Van Gerwen was whitewashed by Wright in the European Grand Prix final and lost to Taylor in the Premier League in Sheffield.

Van Gerwen then had to dig deep to force 6-6 draws with Dave Chisnall and Wright either side of beating van Barneveld.

Form-wise, Anderson heads to the O2 with the worst record of the four semi-finalists based on his last six Premier League results, with three losses and a draw alongside two wins.

Taylor overcame back-to-back defeats to Chisnall and Wright to finish with a flourish with wins over Van Gerwen and Lewis which secured his last-four place.

Van Gerwen has three wins and two draws – either side of his Taylor loss – while Wright ended a run of two successive draws by reeling off four straight wins.

Although Taylor will be dreaming of one last title triumph in this tournament, we like the look of a Van Gerwen versus Wright final.

Looking for big odds? Well if you fancy trying your luck with a correct score double, Wright to beat Taylor 10-8 and Van Gerwen to overcome Anderson 10-6 can be backed at 75/1.