Preview: Premier League playoffs

Sports Mole previews the Premier League playoffs as four players attempt to emerge victorious at the O2 Arena in London.

The O2 Arena in London will play host to the Premier League playoffs this evening as the remaining four players fight it out for the £150,000 prize.

PDC world champion and defending Premier League titlist Michael van Gerwen goes into the last four as the favourite to retain his trophy, but with Raymond van Barneveld, Phil Taylor and Gary Anderson all in form, it is the most open conclusion to the tournament since its creation in 2005.

Below, Sports Mole assesses both semi-finals, and predicts who will be crowned the winner of the 10th staging of the competition.

Semi-finals:

Michael van Gerwen vs. Gary Anderson

Michael van Gerwen entered the tournament in February brimming with confidence after winning his first world title, and his stature in the game continued its upward curve when he whitewashed Phil Taylor on the opening night.

It was a performance that sent out a resounding statement to his rivals that the pressure of holding the title as world champion would not have a damaging effect on his momentum, and despite a couple of minor blips, he has been the standout performer of the regular league campaign.

Michael van Gerwen of the Netherlands in action during his quarter-final match Clinton Bridge of Australia against during day two of the Sydney Darts Masters on August 30, 2013© Getty Images

However, despite finishing four points clear of the rest of the field, the resurgence of Gary Anderson means that his place in the final is by no means a certainty, and the Dutchman will have to produce his 'A' game if he is to earn the opportunity to face Taylor or Van Barneveld.

Before the start of the year, Anderson had spent the best part of two years falling down the PDC Order of Merit, but an encouraging showing against Van Gerwen at the World Championship re-energised the Scot's ambitions in the sport, and four tournament victories in the space of five months have seen the former Premier League champion accumulate valuable ranking points before several upcoming major events.

Anderson was also victorious in his last encounter with Van Gerwen, something that 'Mighty Mike' acknowledged in last week's post-match interview, and this game has all the makings of a classic if both can reproduce the power-scoring and finishing that have been on show since the start.

Prediction Van Gerwen to come from behind to win 8-6.

Raymond van Barneveld vs. Phil Taylor

The next chapter of one of the greatest rivalries that the sport has ever seen will be written this evening as Raymond van Barneveld and Phil Taylor clash for the 65th time.

With 21 world titles between them, there is always a sense of anticipation when 'Barney' and 'The Power' meet on television, and although the Dutchman has failed to oust the Stoke-on-Trent thrower in their previous 22 times on the big stage, there is a feeling that he is getting closer to breaking the hoodoo that stretches back to 2008.

Van Barneveld has previously become known for his lack of fight and inconsistency in recent years but this Premier League campaign has seen him battle hard to keep defeats to a minimum, and it was only at the end of the league phase where he began to show a few signs of weakness.

However, despite those setbacks, Van Barneveld can take plenty of confidence into tonight's contest, and he is going to have to be in a positive frame of mind if he is to make the final of the Premier League for the first time of his career.

Phil Taylor of Britain reacts as he takes part in the PDC World Championship darts final against Michael van Gerwen of the Netherlands on January 1, 2013© Getty Images

All the talk over the first few weeks of this year's tournament was the apparent deterioration of Taylor and whether everyone had seen the best of the 16-time world champion, but like he has done on many occasions, he came back revitalised when required and earned his place in the last four the hard way.

However, even when the alarm bells were ringing in February, Taylor was still averaging around the three-figure mark, and now gradual improvements have been made to his finishing, Taylor is returning to the level that has seen him win over 70 major titles and he goes into this evening not experiencing the same kind of pressure and expectation that he has shouldered throughout his illustrious career.

Prediction Taylor to continue his dominance over Van Barneveld with an 8-4 victory.

Final:

If Van Gerwen and Taylor do progress to the final, darts supporters should be treated to a topsy-turvy game between two men who are eager to gain bragging rights over the other as they fight for the right to be named the best player in the sport at this moment in time.

Taylor will be confident that he can relish the opportunity to compete under less pressure than he is used to, and win or lose this evening, he will be quick to allude to the theory that Van Gerwen was the man who was expected to retain his title.

But in the past, Van Gerwen's problem hasn't been failing to deal with pressure, it has been complacency, and with the Dutchman motivated to continue to build a legacy in the sport at just 25 years of age, he could find that extra edge in the closing stages.

Prediction Van Gerwen to withstand a Taylor charge to grind out a 10-8 success.

Michael van Gerwen of the Netherlands in action during his quarter-final match Clinton Bridge of Australia against during day two of the Sydney Darts Masters on August 30, 2013
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