BARNEY CONTINUES PLAY-OFF CHALLENGE AS 888.COM PREMIER LEAGUE DARTS VISITS SHEFFIELD

RAYMOND VAN BARNEVELD believes the battle for places in the 888.com Premier League Darts play-offs next month is between five players, as he prepares to face World Champion Adrian Lewis in Sheffield on Thursday.

The Dutchman is locked in a battle to claim a spot in the top four of the league table, with only five games remaining before those players qualify to compete at the Wembley Arena on May 19 for the £125,000 title.

While league leader Phil Taylor needs just one win to mathematically secure his play-off place, just three points separate Gary Anderson, Simon Whitlock, van Barneveld and Lewis behind him in the league table.

And van Barneveld, who has lost to top-quality displays by Taylor and Whitlock in the past fortnight, is anticipating another titanic struggle when he plays Lewis at Sheffield’s Motorpoint Arena on Thursday.

“It’s a really exciting Premier League and I think there are five players playing for four places now,” said van Barneveld, ruling out the changes of James Wade, Terry Jenkins and Mark Webster.

“You can play very well and hit big averages but still lose, as I showed last week against Simon when he averaged nearly 108 to my 104.

“I’d rather have a 97 average and win, but doubles are the key to winning matches. I’m still improving and I know I’m playing well, but now I have to prove it by hitting the key shots.”

Lewis had lost last week to 2009 champion Wade, who needs a win from his clash with Whitlock to keep alive his hopes of reclaiming the title next month after winning only three out of nine games so far.

“I don’t deserve to be in the top four but my form’s starting to come back,” said Wade. “My throws becoming natural again and I want to finish the season by showing people how well I can play.”

Whitlock hit eight 180s – the most by any player this season – in his 8-5 defeat of van Barneveld last week, and a 107.93 average was his highest since joining the PDC circuit almost two years ago.

“The table’s so tight that anybody can still make the top four, and I’ve got to go up there and try and win every week,” said Whitlock. “I think my game’s got a little bit better in recent weeks and I’m expecting good things.”

Scotland’s Gary Anderson enjoyed a superb win over Jenkins in Aberdeen last week, and takes on the league’s bottom player, Mark Webster, in Sheffield.

“I’ve won my last two games and that’s been a boost but I’ve got to keep it up now,” said Anderson. “Mark has shown how dangerous he can be on his day and he’s fighting for some pride.”

Taylor, meanwhile, could effectively end Jenkins’ fading play-off hopes when they clash in the night’s other game.

“The pressure’s on Terry now ,” said Taylor, who has won eight successive matches. “He’s had a few bad results and he knows he’s got to play better against me.

“I’m over the moon with how I’m playing and I’ve been consistent over the last five or six weeks, but I won’t be easing up against anyone.”

Over 6,000 tickets have been sold for Thursday’s event at the Motorpoint Arena in Sheffield, with the last few remaining tickets available via 0114 256 5656 orwww.motorpointarena.co.uk.

888.com Premier League Darts
Week Ten – Motorpoint Arena, Sheffield

James Wade v Simon Whitlock
Mark Webster v Gary Anderson
Terry Jenkins v Phil Taylor
Raymond van Barneveld v Adrian Lewis
Tickets: 0114 256 5656 or www.motorpointarena.co.uk

888sport.com Match Odds
James Wade 9/4, Draw 7/2, Simon Whitlock 8/11
Mark Webster 15/4, Draw 9/2, Gary Anderson 2/5
Terry Jenkins 15/2, Draw 13/2, Phil Taylor 1/6
Raymond van Barneveld 11/10, Draw 7/2, Adrian Lewis 6/4
Odds courtesy 888sport.com

Latest League Table

P W D L +/- Pts
Phil Taylor 9 8 0 1 +32 16
Gary Anderson 9 6 0 3 +16 12
Simon Whitlock 9 5 0 4 +7 10
R v Barneveld 9 5 0 4 +5 10
Adrian Lewis 9 4 1 4 +9 9
James Wade 9 3 0 6 -19 6
Terry Jenkins 9 2 1 6 -23 5
Mark Webster 9 2 0 7 -27

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Source -PDC/Lawrence Lustig

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