Newcastle to host Premier battle
Just two play-off places are available with five players battling it out to earn them in the McCoy's Premier League In Newcastle on Thursday.
The tightest-ever play-off race sees reigning world champion Adrian Lewis, 2009 Premier League winner James Wade, Dutch favourite Raymond van Barneveld and this year's two newcomers Kevin Painter and Andy Hamilton all still in contention to reach next week's semi-finals.
Lewis knows that a win from his clash with Simon Whitlock, one of two players already through along with runaway league leader Phil Taylor, would guarantee him a play-off place.
Wade faces van Barneveld in another key contest, while the winner of the game between Painter and Hamilton could also sneak into the top four.
"I love pressure and I've always said that I'm a pressure player, so I've a chance to prove that now on Thursday," said Lewis, whose defeat to Painter in Birmingham last week threw the play-off race wide open.
"In the last five or six weeks I've beaten Barney, Taylor and Wade, and then I drew with Gary Anderson and lost to Kevin.
"It's been the best Premier League ever and if I don't qualify then it's down to me - but if I can beat Simon this week then I deserve to be in the top four."
Van Barneveld's game with Wade is set to be the night's crucial fixture, with the Dutchman knowing that he is likely to need a victory to win a play-off spot.
"It is exciting and I'll be giving it my very best," said van Barneveld. "I'm still in the competition but the leg difference could be important and I'm on -11, compared to -6 for James.
"It's not always easy to play James. He's always good against me and I've got my hands full."
Wade may only need a draw to win his semi-final place, depending on other results, but said: "I don't want to be relying on anybody else, and my aim's to beat Raymond to make sure I'm in the top four.
"It's exciting that everything we've played for in the last three months is coming down to the final league game, and I'm looking forward to playing Raymond."
Painter and Hamilton have both enjoyed strong debut seasons in the Premier League, and the winner of their game in Newcastle could also finish in the top four.
"I need the results to go with me, but if I win in Newcastle then we'll see what happens," said Painter. "I'm loving being in the Premier League and it's an unbelievable experience, and like Andy I'll fight right to the end.
"My form has been good over the last four or five weeks but I think I've left it a bit late. If I'd been in this form a bit earlier in the Premier League I might have been in a better position, so I'll have to keep my fingers crossed."
Hamilton picked up an 8-4 win over Whitlock in Birmingham to keep his play-off hopes alive, and admitted: "I did my bit last week but both Kevin and I know it's out of our hands.
"I'll keep fighting for every leg, like I've done throughout the season, and we're fighting not just for a play-off place but also for positions because neither one of us wants to be remembered for finishing bottom."
That game's loser would stand an outside chance of being relegated to the foot of the table should Gary Anderson, the reigning champion, defeat Taylor.
Anderson slipped to the foot of the table following a five-game losing run in the middle of the season, and three draws in his last four matches have not been enough to keep alive his hopes of retaining the title.
"It's obviously disappointing for me that I can't reach the play-offs and I want to finish with a win in Newcastle," said Anderson.
"I know how tough it will be playing Phil because he's had a superb year, but my form has been coming back slowly and there have been some good signs in the last couple of weeks."
Taylor has dropped only three points throughout his 13 games so far - all to Lewis - and averaged 116 in defeating Wade 8-1 in Birmingham a week ago.
"I won't be relaxing on Thursday and I want to go into the play-offs with another good performance under my belt," said Taylor.
"You can't relax because players breed on confidence, so if you go up there and lose they'll be confident that they'd going to beat you the next time that you play.
"I'm focusing on getting myself right for the play-offs and I'm excited about playing Gary because, regardless of his league position, he's a class player."
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