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Rod previews the final night of the Premier League

Rod Harrington Posted 8th May 2012 view comments

We've never had so many people in a position to qualify for the semi-finals and that's great for the Premier League.

We said at the beginning of the season that we wanted this to be the best Premier League ever and that is exactly what we've got.

There were a lot of doubters passing comment on myself and the PDC when we named this year's wildcards, but I think our knowledge of the game has been proven.

Lewis: world champion needs a win to reach semis

Lewis: world champion needs a win to reach semis

Everybody's enjoyed a great competition - but we don't see many people coming up to us telling us we were right!!

Phil Taylor and Simon Whitlock are through to the Play-Offs and there are lots of permutations over who will fill the other two spots (you can see them here).

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It could end up being fairly easy. If Adrian Lewis wins then he is through and then the winner of the Raymond van Barneveld v James Wade match will join him.

But darts, and especially this year's Premier League, is never that simple.

All of the guys will be under a lot of pressure. There will be plenty of edgy darts and it could all come down to who takes out the big shots at the big times.

Adrian Lewis v Simon Whitlock

Adrian Lewis made it very easy for Kevin Painter last week. He wasn't in the right frame of mind and will need to be much better against an in-form Simon Whitlock. He was really fired up in his wins over Barney and Taylor, but last week it was as if I was up there!

To borrow a phrase from a car advert, there was no va-va-voom and it seemed like he was going through the motions. That's left him with a big problem because if he doesn't win this week he might not go through; even a draw might not be good enough. There's no ifs or buts, if the world champion wants to play in the semi-finals he has to win this match.

Whitlock won't let him win though, that's for sure. No matter what they might say, none of the players want to finish fourth and play Phil Taylor in the semi-finals and he needs a point to secure second place. Whitlock is a professional and he'll play to win and I think this match could be decided by the legs played before the break. It's a really tough task for Adie and the pressure is on him. We've seen glimpses of both brilliance and mediocrity from him this year, but I think he will turn up this week. I'm backing him to qualify.

Andy Hamilton v Kevin Painter

A draw is no good to either of these players if they want an outside chance of reaching the Play-Offs, so they'll both come out with all guns blazing. Andy Hamilton is a streetfighter and will scrap for every inch, as we've see in some great results for him in the last few weeks. Meanwhile, Kevin Painter has been playing well and has learned to concentrate for the whole match, rather than worrying about what the other player hits. He needs to bring that strategy to the board on Thursday; he needs to play his own game and not worry about what Hamilton does.

We'll see which of these players has moved up a step on the ladder of his professional career. Neither of these guys has missed many doubles over the last few weeks and it could all come down to one big shot. If it gets to 6-6 then one of the players might need to take out a big finish to take control of the game. This will be a close match and I can see it finishing as a draw - which would suit neither of them! If Lewis wins it could be out of their hands anyway, but they need to forget about all the permutations and go and play darts!

Raymond van Barneveld v James Wade

This is probably going to be the best game of the night. They've both got to win so both players will come out and go for it. James Wade was trounced by Taylor in Birmingham (although I think he'd have trounced anybody last week), but I think he's a class act and has a lot of bottle. However, you never know which Wade is going to turn up and that could be the key factor in this game.

Barney only drew with Anderson last week, which would have been a great disappointment for him. He's let a couple of points slip, especially in the early part of the season, and it could come back to haunt him. However, he's the most solid of these two players and I would just lean towards him. I could make a case for both players winning this one, but if I had to choose one of them, I would pick Barney to go through with Taylor, Whitlock and Lewis. However, I could be totally, totally wrong because the League is so close!

Gary Anderson v Phil Taylor

Anderson is already eliminated and had no pressure on him during his draw with Barney last week, so played quite well as a result. He will just go up on the stage in Newcastle, play the dartboard and take the game to Taylor. He's got a lot of pride and he isn't going to want to get thrashed. If he gets on top of his scoring power then he is capable of giving Phil a run.

However, Taylor is desperate to post an average of 120 before we get to the O2 Arena. He nearly did it last week against Wade and even though there was nothing riding on that match for him, he was as focused as he would have been in a World Championship Final. He wants to put a marker out and say to the rest of the field: 'Look boys, you need a 120 average if you want to beat me.' He goes out to win every single game - and win convincingly - and that's what makes him such a good professional. I expect him to win by a couple of legs here... and that 120 average is possible!

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