Wayne Mardle on the World Matchplay Final: Back Phil to make it sweet 16 at the Winter Gardens

Will you be backing The Power to turn it on tonight?
Will you be backing The Power to turn it on tonight?

Phil Taylor came into the World Matchplay almost as an outsider but he goes into the final as the favourite up against a tinkering Peter Wright. Our man Wayne Mardle has been watching all the action at the Winter Gardens and can't get away from The Power in his preview of the final...

"In the 33 legs won by Phil in the quarters and semis, The Power had an amazing 20 two or three dart combination finishes. If those stats are replicated - or if he comes anywhere close to that level - he'll win this cosily."

Phil Taylor v Peter Wright

These are two massive names in the game but's not a final that most would have predicted, Phil being a 25/1 shot at the outset.

Michael Van Gerwen has been in dominant mood over the last few years and was odds-on to triumph in Blackpool, but The Power put paid to Michael's chances in the quarter-final and then glided past Adrian Lewis in the semi.

In the other semi-final Peter stopped Daryl Gurney, who was the conqueror of second seed and second favourite, Gary Anderson.

Wright still isn't totally comfortable with his game - if he was he wouldn't be changing darts throughout matches.

The world no.3 was outstanding against Cristo Reyes in round two, but hasn't been able to replicate that kind of standard on a consistent basis.

By contrast Phil is playing wonderfully well. He was a little nervous against Gerwyn Price in the opening round but has been playing with so much freedom since that first round win. He seems less worried about things.

To win this tournament on his last ever visit to the iconic Winter Gardens would be such an achievement. Not because of who he's beaten but because it's his last year before he retires. Phil has a real soft spot for this event, so for him to go out winning would mean so much. Oh, and it'd be 16 wins to match his 16 world crowns. What a record! Never to be matched, whatever the outcome today.

I've already mentioned that I thought Phil was nervous in the first round, and his average of 94 showed that. Since then he's averaged 101 or 102 in every match. Like I've said many times, averages may only be a guide to how a player is playing, but they are a great guide.

In the 33 legs won by Phil in the quarters and semis, The Power had an amazing 20 two or three dart combination finishes. If those stats are replicated - or if he comes anywhere close to that level - he'll win this cosily.

Wright was in magnificent form about two months ago but has just levelled out a tad.

In an interview with Sky Sports after a match he said he'd forgotten how to throw and had no idea where the darts were going to end up. On top of that, in last night's match against Gurney he was changing flights, stems and darts with the regularity most humans breathe.

If you have any doubts in your equipment and confidence, it's most unlikely it'll come good in a World Matchplay Final, especially against an opponent like Taylor, who will keep the pressure up to the max.

He is still a dangerous opponent of course. I hark back to the match against Reyes when Peter was simply brilliant. If he plays like that then all my thoughts and assumptions about tonight's match are way off.

The head-to-head stats show the players have shared the last 14 meetings. Wright has won the two most recent matches, with the last being the Premier League semi-final, which Wright edged 10-9.

Recommended Bet
Taylor -2.5 legs @ 4/5

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