The race for Cazoo Premier League Play-Off qualification will go down to the wire next week, as Jonny Clayton and Nathan Aspinall battle it out for the last remaining spot at London’s O2.
The final league night of the season will take place at Aberdeen’s P&J Live on Thursday May 18, with Clayton and Aspinall set to collide in a straight shoot-out for a top four berth.
Neither player has failed to qualify for the Play-Offs in their previous two appearances, but that will change next week, as the pair bid to preserve their hopes of lifting the coveted title on May 25.
Clayton moved two points clear of Aspinall following his quarter-final win over Dimitri Van den Bergh in Sheffield, while the Stockport star succumbed to an imperious Gerwyn Price in his opener.
The fixtures for Night 16 – determined by the league standings – have pitted 2021 champion Clayton against 2020 runner-up Aspinall in a decisive showdown on Scottish soil.
Clayton would confirm his Play-Off qualification with victory, while Aspinall must progress to the Night 16 final to overhaul his Welsh rival, who will qualify via nights won if the pair finish level on points.
“I was over the moon to get over the line against Dimitri,” reflected Clayton – who was beaten by eventual nightly winner Michael Smith in the Night 15 semi-finals.
“Obviously Gezzy [Price] did me a favour by beating Nathan, so I needed to do my job and I did against Dimitri, which puts the pressure back on Nathan.
“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, but it’s easier said than done!”
Elsewhere, Smith’s third consecutive nightly victory ensures the battle for top spot will also be decided in Aberdeen next Thursday.
The world number one overcame Michael van Gerwen, Clayton and league leader Gerwyn Price to triumph in Sheffield, reducing Price’s lead at the Premier League summit to three points.
Price would have guaranteed top spot with victory in the Steel City, although he will finish top of the league phase if he reaches his ninth nightly final of 2023 next Thursday.
Smith, meanwhile, has leapfrogged reigning champion Van Gerwen to move into second spot, as he sets his sights on becoming the first player to register four consecutive nightly wins in the sport’s biggest roadshow.
“I’ve got a chance now in Aberdeen to finish top and go into the Play-Offs full of confidence,” said Smith, who has won his last nine Premier League matches.
“I’ve got more gears to go through, but I am fighting, and I’m winning without playing at my best.
“Gezzy has been the best player [in the Premier League], but I’ve been one of the best for the last three weeks, and it would be nice to finish top for the prestige."
Smith will begin his bid for a fourth straight nightly win against Van den Bergh in Aberdeen, while Price takes on Peter Wright in the evening’s opening quarter-final.
Elsewhere, six-time champion Van Gerwen will face Dobey for a place in the semi-finals, as the Dutchman eyes a fourth nightly win of the season – and his first since Night Six in Liverpool.
There are a small of number of tickets remaining for Night 16 in Aberdeen, as the Play-Off race concludes at the P&J Live. Click here to buy tickets.
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