THE battle for play-off places in the Whyte & Mackay Premier League Darts steps up on Thursday night as the tournament visits the Wembley Arena.

The famous London venue will host the Premier League for the first time as the 12th of 14 league nights heads to the capital, with all eight players still in the hunt for top four places.

James Wade and Phil Taylor, the league’s top two players, are all but assured of their place in the play-offs at the end of May – but the remaining six players face a crucial three weeks.

Three defeats in his last four matches has left world number one Raymond van Barneveld – currently third in the league on 12 points – in danger of losing his spot in the top four.

Peter Manley, Wayne Mardle and Adrian Lewis sit just two points behind the Dutchman, who takes on Lewis at Wembley.

Terry Jenkins, who plays Mardle this week, has picked up eight points so far this season, while John Part sits bottom on seven points and must win at least two of his final three games to have a chance of qualifying.

Part bids to end his three-game losing run meets Taylor at Wembley in a clash of the current and former World Champions, and admits: “I have to get a win this week.

“I always relish the challenge of playing Phil and this will be no different. I’ve been getting close in my matches but not getting the results and need to turn that round.”

Mardle allowed a 4-0 lead to slip against Wade last week as a four-game winning run came to an end, and said: “I started well last week but had a bad second half of the game, and I know I’ll have to perform for the full 14 legs against Terry.

“He’s had some disappointing results recently but he’s always battling and it will be tough.”

A sixth successive 100-plus average from Taylor in Liverpool took his tournament average to 100.58 and kept him a point behind Wade at the top of the table and – perhaps more importantly – effectively secured his play-off place.

“That’s the most important thing, being in the top four,” said Taylor, who is unbeaten since week four.

“It’s not necessarily about finishing top, but being in the four and then winning the semis and final. James has been fantastic so far but I’m up there with him and it’s up to me to keep winning.”

Wade has lost only twice so far in an impressive debut Premier League campaign, and is bidding to maintain his table-topping position in the final weeks.

“It’s good being top but there are plenty of people behind me who are quite happy to step into my shoes!” said Wade.

“I’ve got to keep playing well, but the most important thing has been making sure I’m in the play-offs, and I’m pretty certain of that now.”

Whyte & Mackay Premier League Darts
Week 12 – April 17
Wembley Arena
Terry Jenkins v Wayne Mardle
Peter Manley v James Wade
Adrian Lewis v Raymond van Barneveld
John Part v Phil Taylor
Live on Sky Sports 2 from 7.30pm

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