Two players will be eliminated from the 2015 Premier League this Thursday, at Judgement Night in Manchester. Kim Huybrechts, Adrian Lewis, Raymond van Barneveld, Peter Wright and Stephen Bunting are all fighting for survival. Huybrechts and Bunting clash, while Lewis and Wright will also contest a potential relegation decider. Raymond van Barneveld needs a point to assure his survival, but he faces current World Champion Gary Anderson. Elsewhere, Phil Taylor and Dave Chisnall face off, whilst Michael van Gerwen hopes to preserve his unbeaten record against an in-form James Wade.
Stephen Bunting: The Bullet needs just two legs against Kim Huybrechts to secure survival.
Peter Wright: Wright will be safe if he avoids defeat against Adrian Lewis. If he loses, he must hope Gary Anderson beats Raymond van Barneveld.
Raymond van Barneveld: A draw for van Barneveld will see him survive. He will also survive if he matches Adrian Lewis’s result against Peter Wright, and Huybrechts fails to beat Bunting.
Adrian Lewis: Lewis will guarantee safety by beating Peter Wright. If he draws with Wright and van Barneveld loses to Anderson, he will also survive.
Kim Huybrechts: Kim must beat Stephen Bunting, but he also needs Lewis and van Barneveld to lose. He must also win by a sufficient margin to overcome them both on legs difference.
Michael van Gerwen vs James Wade
Van Gerwen produced the best performance of his Premier League campaign last week, in beating Raymond van Barneveld 7-2. Raymond threw superbly well, averaging 104.37, but MvG dismantled him with some stunning scoring and clinical finishing. He’s averaged over 100 in 6 of his 8 matches thus far, and the 160 finish he hit to seal victory last week epitomised his 2015 form. Barney was threatening a break of throw, but it appears whenever the 25-year-old from Boxtel is under pressure, he is capable of producing magical moments with consummate ease.
However, in James Wade, he will face a tenacious opponent who is capable of beating anyone in world darts. Wade has been in sparkling form recently, performing extremely well on the floor and the European Tour. Wade’s been posting 100+ averages with impressive regularity, and will surely have to replicate this to have any chance of overcoming van Gerwen.
‘The Machine’ was certainly not at his vintage best last week, averaging just 92 in a 7-3 win over Peter Wright, but Wade was always in control. It’s been billed as the finishing of Wade vs the power scoring of MvG, however Wade must score consistently and heavily to even trouble MvG. The Dutchman has won 9 of their last 10 meetings, and I fancy him to maintain this fine record and move further clear of the chasing pack.
Prediction: van Gerwen 7-4 Wade
Phil Taylor vs Dave Chisnall
On February 5th, if anyone had claimed that Dave Chisnall would be 2pts ahead of Phil Taylor in the table after 8 weeks, they would have been laughed at! Nevertheless, this is credit to Chizzy, who has benefitted from a steely and tenacious approach. He was under pressure last week against Adrian Lewis, having suffered consecutive defeats to Stephen Bunting and van Gerwen. A third successive loss would have caused many to question Chisnall’s ability to stand the course, but he responded superbly; capitalising on Lewis’ double trouble to secure a 7-2 victory with a 100 average.
However, this will be the minimum requirement against Phil Taylor. Taylor is in imperious form and has thrown far better than his league position indicates. Taylor’s currently outside of the play-offs on legs difference, despite boasting the highest tournament average of all 10 competitors, at 105.23. After two successive defeats at the hands of the Dutch duo van Gerwen and van Barneveld, Taylor also responded with victory last week, beating Kim Huybrechts 7-4. Taylor averaged 106, and pounced on Huybrechts’ failure to take out 100 for 5-5, to claim the one break of throw needed.
I expect this to be a high-quality contest, as neither player is competing under the intense pressure of a relegation fight; however, this match could have major repercussions for the top 4 race. I am wary of writing Chisnall off, because he has defied many critics with his results this season, but Taylor is an extremely ominous proposition at present. I think the 16-time World Champion will be in the play-off places come the conclusion of judgement night.
Prediction: Taylor 7-4 Chisnall
Stephen Bunting vs Kim Huybrechts
This is the first of three elimination battles. Bunting needs just two legs to guarantee safety, whilst Huybrechts must win, and hope both Adrian Lewis and Raymond van Barneveld lose, to have any chance of survival. I must admit, I was initially critical of Kim’s wildcard inclusion, but while the table may suggest otherwise, I believe he has vindicated his selection. Kim has been extremely unfortunate so far; he’s lost a high proportion of his matches 7-4 or 7-5, despite averaging over 100 in many of his defeats. He has often made one mistake that has been ruthlessly punished, but this is the reality of competing with the elite players. Having said that, the Belgian is still fighting and whilst his chances of survival are admittedly improbable, it’s certainly possible.
Bunting had a torrid start to his debut Premier League campaign, picking up just one point from his opening 4 matches, but he has responded positively and is now on the verge of survival. He has yet to produce his best darts, only posting 2 x100+ averages, but he has continued to battle. Against Gary Anderson last week, Bunting led 4-2 and was averaging over the 100 mark, but his scoring waned as the match approached the ‘business-end’. Similarly, against Wright a fortnight ago, Bunting held a commanding 5-1 advantage, but could only secure a 6-6 draw. This will concern the Bullet, because over a short format, you would expect to maintain a consistent level of performance throughout.
On form, I fancy Huybrechts to win this match. Huybrechts’ tournament average is 98.28, compared to Bunting’s 94.59, and Kim has thrown consistently well over the last five weeks. Bunting is a top player and is certainly capable of claiming victory, but his game is lacking conviction at present. Having said that, his safety is virtually guaranteed and may be this will give him the impetus to potentially push for a play-off place. A win may not be enough for the Belgian to overcome judgement night, but irrespective of the outcome, he should be proud of how he’s acquitted himself in his debut Premier League campaign.
Prediction: Bunting 4-7 Huybrechts
Adrian Lewis vs Peter Wright
Adrian Lewis has once again endured a hugely frustrating Premier League campaign. For the second time since the relegation format was implemented, Jackpot is fighting for survival on Judgement Night, which is puzzling considering his immense ability. This is Adrian’s 8th Premier League appearance, and he’s only qualified for the play-offs on two occasions. After he averaged 113.80 to beat Raymond van Barneveld 7-1 in Week One, he appeared in fine shape to challenge at the top-end of the table, but he’s failed to register a victory since then. He has been unfortunate in recent weeks though; prior to his 7-2 defeat to Chizzy last week, he averaged 103 against both Anderson and Wade, only amassing the solitary point. However, the back-to-back 2-Time World Champion can take solace from the fact that when he faces Peter Wright on Thursday, he is in control of his own destiny.
Wright has not played particularly well in this Premier League. He had a brilliant run to the UK Open final in early March, but has not replicated this on a Thursday night. Wright has the lowest tournament average of all 10 competitors, 94.10. He has been fortunate to snatch draws against Bunting and van Barneveld; he trailed 5-1 in both, but capitalised on van Barneveld’s loss of energy, and Bunting’s edginess created by the partisan Scottish crowd. However, Snakebite will legitimately claim that if he avoids relegation without producing his best, then he’s capable of causing real damage when he starts playing to his potential.
Despite this, the 45-year-old may not get this opportunity. In the last two weeks, he has averaged just 93 and 87. Although Lewis has been struggling on the doubles, he has been scoring heavily and appears in bullish mood; so the Scot must raise his level considerably. If Wright loses, he must rely on Gary Anderson beating van Barneveld in order to survive. They have met on television 4 times, with Wright only losing once, at the Masters in February this year. I fancy Lewis to get the rewards for his recent form, and make Wright reliant on a favour from his compatriot.
Prediction: Lewis 7-5 Wright
Gary Anderson vs Raymond van Barneveld
The last match of the night will be contested between the World Champion and the reigning Premier League Champ; but van Barneveld’s defence of his title is in serious jeopardy. The legendary Dutchman will be wondering how he’s in this position; he has played better than his points tally indicates, but he must secure a share of the spoils to guarantee his safety. However, by the time he takes to the oche, he will know the task facing him. If Lewis suffers a big defeat, Barney may only need a couple of legs to survive; although this is an unlikely prospect.
Van Barneveld has averaged 104.3 in both of his last two fixtures. He saw off Taylor in Glasgow, despite the Power posting a record 115.80 average, but it wasn’t enough to dismantle an inspired MvG last week. On current form, the 47-year-old Dutchman will be confident, but he faces a very difficult proposition in the shape of Gary Anderson. Anderson is currently 2nd in the table, having won his last 3 matches in emphatic style. Gary had a mini-wobble in February, exiting the UK Open at the 3rd round stage and missing countless doubles against MvG in week 3, but the ‘Flying Scotsman’ is firmly back on track.
In their last 7 TV meetings, van Barneveld has won five, losing just one, so that should provide him with confidence. Having said that, Anderson is a far different and meaner proposition than he was 18 months ago, and Raymond may have to repeat his heroics against Taylor to keep his hopes of defending his title alive. Both are in excellent form and capable of posting very handsome averages, so it’s difficult to call.
In my five previous Premier League previews, I have predicted a van Barneveld win four times; but he has lost three, and drawn one of those contests. On the one occasion I predicted van Barneveld to draw with Taylor, he won, so on that basis, I think we may see a share of the spoils!
Prediction: Anderson 6-6 van Barneveld
On this basis, I think Kim Huybrechts and Peter Wright will be the casualties from Judgement Night, although Adrian Lewis and Raymond van Barneveld will be under pressure to perform. However, out of the potential candidates, Lewis and van Barneveld have been performing better than Snakebite. Who do you think will be relegated following Judgement Night? It’s a topic that is sparking great debate, so please leave your thoughts/predictions in the comments section below! Thanks for reading!