Premier League Preview Night 16 Aberdeen – Aspinall and Clayton on a collision course
Thursday in Aberdeen will mark the conclusion of the Cazoo Premier League Play-Offs qualifying race as Jonny Clayton and Nathan Aspinall square off in a pivotal quarterfinal match.
In front of a large Scottish audience, the final night of league phase action in 2023 will take place at P&J Live as Clayton and Aspinall compete to join Gerwyn Price, Michael Smith, and Michael van Gerwen in the Play-Offs on next Thursday at The O2.
In their quarterfinal matchup in Scotland, Clayton and Aspinall are separated by just two points, and if the Welshman prevails, he will qualify for the Play-Offs for a third straight year.
Since Clayton advanced to a nightly semifinal while Aspinall lost to Price in the Sheffield quarterfinals on Thursday, the former UK Open champion must now win the Aberdeen final to surpass his rival and take fourth place.
Obviously Gezzy [Price] did me a favour by beating Nathan last week,” said Clayton, who beat Dimitri Van den Bergh in last week’s quarter-finals to move two points clear of the Stockport star.
“I needed to do my job and I did against Dimitri, which puts the pressure back on Nathan. I’m feeling confident and hopefully it goes my way on Thursday.
“It would be fantastic to make The O2 but I’m trying not to think about it. I will just try to go out, relax and play my game, although it’s easier said than done!
“We’re all out to win, so I’m just going to concentrate on my game, and I am sure Nathan will be doing the same.”
To guarantee a spot in the top four, Aspinall must defeat Clayton and advance to the Night 16 final, but the 2020 runner-up is optimistic as she travels to Aberdeen.
The 31-year-old performed admirably at the weekend’s Czech Darts Open, averaging 103 and 105 before losing to Dave Chisnall in the last eight. On last Thursday, he lost to Price and averaged 104.
“I’m happy where my game’s at, and I’m not going to give it to Jonny,” insisted Aspinall, who finished third in his previous two Premier League campaigns.
“I’ve found something and I played really well at the weekend, probably one of the best tournaments I’ve played this year and I’m confident.
“I’m going to leave everything on that stage on Thursday night, and if I play like I can and like I played at the weekend, I’ll take some stopping.
“There’s a little bit more pressure this time, but I handle these situations quite well and hopefully I handle it very well on Thursday.”
The winner of the pivotal match between Clayton and Aspinall advances to a semifinal matchup against Price or Scottish number one Peter Wright, who square off in the evening’s first match.
The Race For Top Spot
Price hopes to become the fifth Premier League player to win the league phase, and the 2021 World Champion would guarantee victory by making it to the Night 16 championship match.
Wright, however, will be looking to cap off a challenging year with a strong performance at home after getting back on the winning track at the Czech Darts Open in Prague.
“Gerwyn Price is a fantastic darts player, and he has taken darts by storm,” admitted Wright, who trails seventh-placed Van den Bergh by two points.
“I’m an old guy just enjoying darts, and as long as I keep enjoying it, that’s the main thing.
“I’ve not really started this year, but hopefully I can finish strongly in Aberdeen.
“My averages will go up and they need to go up, because the standard of player around at the moment is unbelievable and it’s great for darts.”
In other matches, World Champion Smith will face Van den Bergh to start his quest for a fourth straight victory every night in an effort to pass Price for first place in the Premier League.
Smith, who has won nine straight games in the biggest roadshow in sports since the introduction of the knockout format in 2022, is aiming to become the first player to win four straight nights.
“I’ve got a chance now in Aberdeen to finish top and go into the Play-Offs full of confidence,” claimed the world number one.
“Gezzy has been the best player [in the Premier League], but I’ve been one of the best for the last three weeks, I’ve picked up 15 points and that’s put me right up there.
“It would be nice to finish top of the table for the prestige. I qualified for the Play-Offs a few weeks ago, but I’ve still got a job to do.
“I’ve still got to put on a show for the fans and I still need to go to The O2 playing well and winning.”
The current champion Van Gerwen and the Masters champion Dobey will square off once more in this year’s competition in Thursday’s other quarterfinal match.
Dobey defeated Van Gerwen in the Night One championship match in Belfast, and on Night Seven in Nottingham, the Bedlington star became the first player in Premier League history to completely dominate the Dutch superstar.
Van Gerwen, who is currently in third place, overcame Dobey’s 106 average to win on Night Ten in Birmingham, and the six-time champion plans to repeat that feat in Aberdeen.
2023 Cazoo Premier League
Night 16 – Thursday May 18
P&J Live, Aberdeen
Gerwyn Price v Peter Wright
Jonny Clayton v Nathan Aspinall
Michael Smith v Dimitri Van den Bergh
Michael van Gerwen v Chris Dobey
Price/Wright v Clayton/Aspinall
Smith/Van den Bergh v Van Gerwen/Dobey