BIG NIGHT IN BOURNEMOUTH AS VAN GERWEN AND LEWIS DOUBLE UP
MICHAEL VAN GERWEN and Adrian Lewis face a huge night in their Betway Premier League seasons as the tournament visits the BIC in Bournemouth on Thursday, while Phil Taylor is aiming to mathematically secure his Play-Off spot.
Van Gerwen and Lewis will play twice as the tournament returns to Bournemouth for the 12th of 15 league nights this season, with the battle for semi-final spots intensifying by the week.
While second-placed van Gerwen is, like Taylor, unbeaten since the opening night of the season, the Dutchman has drawn four of his last five matches to fall four points adrift of the league leader.
The Dutchman plays his game in hand in Bournemouth as he takes on Peter Wright before returning to the stage against Lewis later in the evening, and knows that he can close the gap at the top of the table - with a 25,000 pound bonus on offer for the player who heads the final standings.
"It's an important night for me," said van Gerwen. "Everyone wants to finish top but there's a bigger incentive this year with the £25,000 bonus and we're all fighting for it. I can't look ahead to the game with Adrian, I have to focus first on Peter Wright because he's played well this year - but I know I'm playing well too and I've shown everyone this season what I can do on the dartboard. Even though I've drawn a few games recently I'm playing well and I just need to make sure that I hit the right shots at the right time."
Third-placed Lewis hit a stunning nine-dart finish in last week's win over James Wade in Belfast, and he meets the tournament's two Dutch stars in Bournemouth as he takes on 2014 champion Raymond van Barneveld before facing van Gerwen.
"I'm still on a high after last week but I've got to get my head on for Bournemouth because it's two big games and I'll go up there to enjoy myself," said Lewis. I've ground out points in recent weeks when I've not been at my best but I've got a bit of a foothold in the Play-Offs and I want to make the most of that now. People have been writing me off at times but I've put the work in and I'm fighting."
Taylor, meanwhile, can mathematically secure his Play-Off place when he takes on Robert Thornton in Bournemouth, with the six-time Premier League winner having won his last four matches in an 11-game unbeaten run.
However, after missing out on the top four for the first time in Premier League history in 2015, Taylor said: "I'm not going to rest on my laurels. You can top the league but not win the tournament so it's all about qualifying for the Play-Offs, but if I can finish top of the league then it's even better. Missing out on the Play-Offs last year killed me, and it's a huge aim to get there and then try to win back the title so I'll be throwing everything at Robert. Even though he can't make the top four he's a fighter and I know he'll be a tough challenge."
Reigning Premier League champion Gar Anderson meets James Wade in the night's other fixture, with the pair sitting in fourth and fifth places in the league table respectively and separated by just one point in the battle for a Play-Off place.
"I'm happy with where I'm sitting and I've got a game in hand on some of the boys but I'm looking forward to every game at the moment," said Anderson, who came from 4-1 down to draw with the 2009 champion in Cardiff three weeks ago.
"James is playing well but he's played a game more than me so far, so if I don't get the win but I can pinch a point I've still got that extra game in hand over him."