Premier League Liverpool Preview: Bottom two face top two as Michael Smith and Peter Wright’s fading play-off hopes edge towards must-win territory

Six nights to go. Six games to go. And for Michael Smith and Peter Wright, the current bottom two in the Premier League table, time is running out for them to make a late surge for the play-offs.

For Smith and Wright, the last two runner-ups in the Premier League, both beaten by Michael van Gerwen in the final at The O2, it is getting to close to verging on must-win territory.

As the Premier League roadshow rolls into Liverpool, and more precisely the M&S Bank Arena, tonight, the gap between the bottom two and a coveted top-four spot can still be closed.

Starting with Wright, the 2017 runner-up who spurned match darts to win the title two years ago, he only trails James Wade, in fourth, by two points.

The legs difference between the two is 13 legs, but with the extended format in this second phase of best of 14, instead of best 12, that is less daunting than it could have been for Wright.

The problem for Wright has been hitting the magic seven, or now we are in the second phase, the magic eight. Of the eight players left in the field, Wright has won the least amount of times – his two victories so far coming against Raymond van Barneveld and Steve Lennon, the contender.

He has not yet managed a win over any of the other seven players still standing, which has to be a concern. What has kept Wright still in with a shout of the play-offs, despite not beating any of his rivals, is the amount of draws he has had. Five in total.

Some of those he will look back on as a point dropped, others a point gained. But if Wright is to get in the top four, draws are no longer enough. He is chasing and needs to find that winning formula again.

One point, and one place, below Wright in the Premier League table is Smith. The two met last week in Belfast, and almost predictably, in Wright’s case anyway, shared the points.

Smith, you felt, left Belfast the more frustrated of the two. Last year he finished second in the table, and then lost to van Gerwen in the showpiece final at The O2. This year he is propping up the rest of the field at the bottom.

Three points off of Wade, Smith still has a chance. A meeting with van Gerwen in Liverpool tonight was not the kindest of hands dealt to him, but looking at the bigger picture it could be perhaps best to ‘get that one out the way’ early doors.

In his last four games, Smith will face four of the current top five. Those are the games where he can make up the ground on the likes of Mensur Suljovic, Wade and Daryl Gurney.

Of course, any positive result against the world number one would be more than welcome for Smith. As would a point, or two, for Wright against the world number two, and current Premier League leader, Rob Cross tonight.

With third and sixth in the table separated by just two points, darts fans should expect a genuine battle to the end to decide who makes the play-offs. Smith and Wright will both need to find something special to get themselves back in the conversation.

Premier League Night 11 – Thursday April 11
M&S Bank Arena, Liverpool
Rob Cross v Peter Wright
Gerwyn Price v Mensur Suljovic
James Wade v Daryl Gurney
Michael Smith v Michael van Gerwen

Picture: Lawrence Lustig/PDC

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