This time last year Gary Anderson was powering his way to the Premier League darts title, but 12 months on he finds himself rooted to the foot of the table and just one result away from elimination from the tournament.
Anything but a win for the Flying Scotsman over Adrian Lewis will see him officially dumped out of the competition, but he will take comfort from the fact that his last win in the Premier League came against Lewis in Week 8 in Exeter, when he thrashed the world champion 8-1.
‘Jackpot’ has a notoriously frosty relationship with Scottish darts fans having become the target of regular abuse since he defeated Anderson in the World Championship final of 2011, so you get the feeling that he would take great pleasure in being able to stick two fingers up at them by delivering the knockout blow to their hero once again.
Despite winning his last four games, Lewis sits just one point above Raymond van Barneveld in the Premier League standings, occupying the final play-off space at the legendary Dutchman’s expense.
If Barney’s Twitter feed is anything to go by, he has been more interested in locating Liverpool’s best Chinese restaurant than he has been with his match against Andy Hamilton this week – a tactic that he perhaps picked up from legendary darts food-guzzler Andy ‘The Pieman’ Smith, who was once notoriously ejected from an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet for eating too much.
In addition to the lack of decent eateries in Liverpool, Van Barneveld has another, and some would argue slightly bigger, problem to deal with.
The five-time world champion has slipped out of the play-off places following three defeats in four matches and victory over World Championship runner-up Hamilton is crucial if he is hang on to Lewis’ coat tails in the race for fourth place.
If Barney’s Twitter feed is anything to go by, he has been more interested in locating Liverpool’s best Chinese restaurant than he has been with his match against Andy Hamilton this week.
“Adrian Lewis” and “race” are two words that you will rarely see in the same sentence, like “Phil Taylor” and “lose”. But lose the great man did last week, slipping to his first defeat of the season with an 8-5 reverse against Lewis, as we predicted on these very pages.
The Power faces Simon Whitlock in Liverpool on Thursday in what could be the match of the night.
The Wizard of Oz remains one of the great enigmas of darts. Crushed 8-0 by James Wade in Cardiff, Whitlock has responded with three consecutive wins to climb into second place in the standings and all but secure a place in the Wembley play-offs.
Whitlock was once accused of disrupting Gary Anderson by walking too slowly to the board – an excuse presumably penned by the same PR company who advised John Terry to cite self-defence as an excuse for kneeing Alexis Sanchez in the buttocks on Tuesday night – but he may need to rely on some more dark arts if he is to inflict a second successive defeat on the runaway leader, who will be baying for blood after last week’s humbling.
Before all that, James Wade kicks off the action against Kevin Painter in a match that is, like the rest of the night’s ties, crucial to both players’ play-off chances.
Wade finally looks like he has got over his now-infamous World Championship collapse as he aims to regain the title that he won in 2009, while Painter remains an outside bet for the play-offs even if he does beat The Machine in Liverpool.
Anyway, that’s all the psychobabble out of the way. Now to the important bit – how to make some money out of all of this!
As far as I can see it’s fairly straightforward.
In order to beat Lewis, Anderson will have to be sharp on his doubles and, let’s face it, that just isn’t going to happen. The legendary Jocky Wilson would have drunk eight doubles by the time it took Anderson to hit the same amount with his darts, such is his lack of confidence on a part of his game that is, frankly, fairly important.
Barney should be well fed after his sojourn to Chinatown and with the serious business of a play-off place to play for, he should have too much in the tank for Hamilton, who is winless in his last three matches.
Taylor rarely loses twice in a row and I, like most people, fully expect him to bounce back with a hard-fought win over the Beard to be Feared (that’s Whitlock for the grown-ups out there).
And to complete your foursome, put Wade on the coupon. Painter rallied to beat Anderson last week but he, along with Hamilton, has lost more games than anybody else in the league this year (seven) and shouldn’t trouble The Machine, provided he can continue the form that has pulled him into contention since Week 3.
A four-strong accumulator containing Lewis at 57/100, Taylor at 3/10, Van Barneveld at 4/5 and Wade at 57/100 will give you odds of just under 5/1.
And any new customers using their free £25 bet for joining bwin.com to back this fourfold could pocket winnings of £144.20 if successful.
Recommended bet: Lewis, Taylor, Barney and Wade to win @ 477/100
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