Week 14 from Newcastle
7pm, Thu, Sky Sports 3 HD
AT the beginning of the Premier League season 99 people out of 100 would have expected to see Michael van Gerwen, Raymond van Barneveld and Phil Taylor in the top four – and that's exactly what's happened.
Some might not have predicted Van Gerwen would be top of the table with one week left but after the way he's played this year few will be surprised to see him in that position – and I can't see Barney toppling him this week.
But there's a great battle taking place for the final play-off spot after James Wade lost both of his games last week. I expected him to beat Andy Hamilton who had nothing but pride to play for but James was beaten by a very good professional who took some big shots out in the early legs and went on and won comfortably.
That's put James in a perilous position where both Robert Thornton and Simon Whitlock can now beat him to the O2 Arena. He's had some good performances this year but also some indifferent ones.
It's all to play for in Newcastle and I would say Thornton is possibly the favourite for the fourth spot – and if I was a total neutral I would say he deserves it. If Wade loses to Taylor then two points from two games should see the Scots through.
Wade has the points on the board and is in possession of fourth and in many ways that's the best position to be in but Thornton is in the best form of the three. It's such a hard call to predict who will go through to finals night.
Andy Hamilton v Adrian Lewis
Neither of these players can make the O2 Arena but there is pride to play for and as Hamilton proved last week that means a lot to him. I'd also say Lewis needs something to kick-start his season and a good win here could do that.
At times he's been playing fairly well but when he misses doubles it seems to get into his head. He also throws the third dart too quickly at times and thinks it will go in – and when you're on top of your game it often does.
When you're scrapping for results that last dart doesn't go in and it can make a difference if you take half a second and tighten up that final dart. He needs to do a pro's job rather than an extrovert's job and get those darts straighter. If he does that then he can go on and beat Andy – and I'm going to go for him here. It will be really tight though.
ROD'S CALL: Lewis win
Robert Thornton v Raymond van Barneveld
There's no question van Barneveld would love to finish in top spot and force Van Gerwen and Taylor to play each other in the semis – that would be a perfect scenario to him. However, he's up against the form horse in Thornton. He won the Pro Tour event last weekend and I watched three of his games and he was incredible, especially in the final, finishing with a 111.33 average and needing just seven darts at a double in six legs.
He's really up for Thursday night because he can still finish in fourth spot,so this could be the game of the night. I can make a huge case for both players and it wouldn't surprise me if Barney dips off the top of his form and Thornton walks away a winner. It's a tough one to call though because if Barney is on top form all the way through he should win.
ROD'S CALL: No bet
Adrian Lewis v Simon Whitlock
Lewis has only got pride to play for but Whitlock can qualify for the O2 Arena and will go up there really motivated. This is the important game for him and he needs to prepare properly and forget about the Barney game later in the night. If you win the first one then the second one comes naturally and you don't need to think about it but if you lose the first game you're still thinking about it later on. Whitlock has been playing solidly lately and if he prepares right then he'll win here, even though Lewis can beat anybody.
ROD'S CALL: Whitlock win
Phil Taylor v James Wade
At the beginning of the Premier League I always say the last thing you want is to have to win points on the last night by beating Taylor. Admittedly, The Power didn't do too well in the Tour Events at the weekend but even though he was losing he was doing so with a 104-105 average and remains the man to beat under pressure.
Wade is a great player but has not played well enough in the last two weeks to beat Taylor. He needs to throw 104 averages or else he will lose this and if he loses there's a high chance that he won't get the fourth spot. I've got to go with a Taylor win.
ROD'S CALL: Taylor win
Michael van Gerwen v Robert Thornton
This will be another tough game for Thornton but the way he's playing means he should be up for it. Van Gerwen will know he can be toppled off the top spot and I'm sure he would rather play Thornton, Wade or Whitlock in the semi-final rather than Barney or Taylor so he'll be up for winning this. I can't see Thornton nicking his second game of the night but it's not impossible he could get four points on Thursday night. I expect Van Gerwen to win but it should be another good match.
ROD'S CALL: Van Gerwen win
Simon Whitlock v Raymond van Barneveld
At the start of each Premier League we always hope the last night will have a big impact and it could all come down to this last game. Both of these players find it hard to get up for two games in one night but if Barney wins his first match they'll both have plenty to play for. I've got to go for a Barney win again but he'll need to be on the top of his game in what should be a close match.
ROD'S CALL: Van Barneveld win