PHIL TAYLOR is bidding to claim a fifth successive Whyte & Mackay Premier League Darts title in Monday’s Play-Offs at the Wembley Arena.

Following 14 league nights held around the UK over the past three months, Taylor, James Wade, Raymond van Barneveld and Mervyn King will face off in a bid to claim the £125,000 first prize.

Taylor defeated Wade in the 2008 final to claim a fourth successive title, and ended the league phase of this year’s event top of the table with just one defeat.

He takes on Mervyn King in the semi-finals on Monday, having overcome the world number five 8-2 in the final round of league games earlier this month.

“It’s been a really tough three months and I can look forward to the play-offs now,” said Taylor, 48.

“Finishing top of the table was a big achievement because it was a test of endurance, and I’m really proud of that – but the challenge now is to win the play-offs.

“I’ve been there and done it before, so I know what I have to do and I’m expecting a big challenge from Mervyn in the semi-final.

“He’s been a great asset to the Premier League this year. He started brilliantly and my win in Cardiff means nothing now, it’s a new game and 0-0 when we start.”

Many pundits are predicting Taylor to face Wade in a repeat of last year’s final on Monday night.

“I’m probably one of his biggest fans,” added Taylor. “When he gets his head on, he’s fantastic.

“He’s a brilliant player and very tough to beat, and if we meet in the final I think it would be a great game – but we’ve got to get there first.”

King made a superb start to his debut Premier League season by winning his opening four games, with perhaps his best displays coming in 8-1 and 8-3 wins against Wade.

However, the withdrawal of Wayne Mardle through illness cost him four points before he ended the campaign fourth after losing to Taylor in his final game.

“I’ve achieved what I set out to do at the start of the Premier League in February, which was to reach the semi-finals, and that alone is an achievement in itself,” said King.

“But now I’m there I want to go on and win this tournament.

“I’ve been practising hard because I know I need to be better than I was in Cardiff. Phil is playing some great darts – he’s a pleasure to watch when you’re not playing him!

“I will do my best and if it’s good enough on the day then great, and I can look forward to the final.”

The two losses to King were Wade’s only defeats during the campaign, as he took a win and a draw against Taylor and completed a league double against van Barneveld, his semi-final opponent.

“I’m really looking forward to the play-offs,” said Wade. “I’ve got a good record against Raymond but overall my form was up and down over the course of the 14 weeks.

“The play-offs is different though, it’s knock-out and there is more pressure. I’d like to think that suits my game and I will rise to the occasion.”

Wade lost last year’s final 16-8, but paid for allowing Taylor into a 9-2 lead on that occasion.

“Last year’s final was a great experience for me,” he said. “I let Phil get off to a flier and if we meet again I can’t do that.

“He’s set the standard this year and has been the most consistent player, finishing top of the table proves that, but we both have to get to the final yet and he’ll have a big challenge in Mervyn.”

Van Barneveld has been a semi-final loser in the last three Premier Leagues, but is determined to finally add this title to his roll of honour.

“The main goal is to reach the final, which I’ve never done,” said van Barneveld. “It is knock-out now and requires a totally different mental approach to the league.

“It’s tough because you first put all your effort into the semi-final and your preparation is focussed on that.

“I am only focusing on the semi-final because James is on fire, his finishing is incredible most of the time and he seems to produce his best games when he plays me.

“Last year, I beat him twice in the league but then in the most important game, the semi-final, I lost to him, so there are no guarantees.

“I’ve had a good preparation and it’s great to be part of the biggest darts event of the year.”

The semi-finals will be the best of 19 legs (first to ten), with the final being played over the best of 25 legs (first to 13).

All four players are guaranteed £40,000 prize money, with the runner-up taking home £65,000 and the winner pocketing £125,000 – the joint highest ever paid in darts, alongside the Ladbrokes.com World Darts Championship.

Play commences at 6pm at the Wembley Arena, and is screened live on Sky Sports 1 and Sky Sports HD1, while a limited number of tickets are still available on 0870 060 0870.

Whyte & Mackay Premier League Darts Play-Offs
May 25, 6pm – Wembley Arena
Semi-Finals
James Wade v Raymond van Barneveld
Phil Taylor v Mervyn King
Best of 19 legs
Final
Best of 25 legs
Tickets: 0870 060 0870

Boylesports.com Semi-Final Match Odds
Raymond van Barneveld (evens) v James Wade (4/5)
Phil Taylor (1/12) v Mervyn King (7/1)
Boylesports are the official betting partner of the Whyte & Mackay Premier League Darts

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