TABLE-TOPPERS Michael van Gerwen and Michael Smith clash as the Unibet Premier League visits Glasgow on Thursday, where Gary Anderson and Peter Wright hope to boost their battles against elimination on home soil.
The Premier League’s top two players, Van Gerwen and Smith, will clash at The SSE Hydro in a bid to move two points clear at the head of the table following seven matches.
The pair’s only previous Premier League meeting had seen Van Gerwen set a world record average of 123.40 in Aberdeen in 2016, and the Dutchman is aiming to assert his dominance over the early-season pace-setter.
“I always have good games against Michael,” said Van Gerwen, who moved top on leg difference last week following a fourth straight win. “It’s going to be a tough one also for him because he did well up to now.
“I’m going to stop him and he knows I want to. He’s a good player and it’s about time it comes out because he’s a phenomenal talent.
“I know I can raise my game a lot more but I’m winning and that’s the most important thing. It’s a tough schedule ahead but I’m top of the table and I only want to be at the top.”
Smith won his opening four matches and bounced back to winning ways with a 7-1 demolition of Wright last week – but insists that facing the world number one will be a true test of his form.
“This game and the game against Gary Anderson were the two I was looking forward to when I got back in the Premier League,” said Smith. “I love playing Michael.
“He’s one of the nice lads, we have a laugh but when we’re playing he gets on with the game. He believes in his ability, the way I do, and hopefully there will be some fireworks this week.
“It could go six-all and be over in ten minutes with how quick it is, but I’m really looking forward to that game.
“I know I’m playing okay, and you want to play the best players in the world to see what else you need to improve on. I’ll know that if I lose what I need to work on.”
Scottish superstar Anderson has drawn his last three matches and is aiming to defeat fourth-placed Simon Whitlock to avoid being drawn into the battle against elimination on Judgement Night.
“It’s good to be back in Scotland,” said Anderson. “We only do it twice a year and the reception from the fans in Glasgow is always fantastic.
“Simon’s played really well so far this season so I’ve got to be good. I’ve been nicking points here and there recently but it’s got to come good at some point and hopefully that will be this week.”
2012 Premier League finalist Whitlock had won his first three matches this season on his return to the tournament, and is relishing the chance to face the UK Open champion.
“I’ve got a poor record against him – I beat him a couple of times last year, one in a final, but he’s a fine player,” said Whitlock. “I’m trying to play really well and to try and get some points every week.
“A lot of people pay good money to watch the Premier League and I don’t want to be there to make the numbers up – I want to be there and perform and do my best to try and make the Play-Offs.
“I’ve had a bad couple of weeks but I’m enjoying the Premier League and it’s looking okay at the moment.”
World number two Wright is also hoping that a return to Scotland can boost his season, with the 2017 runner-up having been dragged into the elimination scrap with successive 7-1 defeats.
Wright is hoping to shake off a shoulder problem in time for his game with Raymond van Barneveld, and said: ““I love playing at The Hydro.
“The atmosphere is just out of this world, the Scots always give me such a loud welcome, it’s just fantastic and I just want to win for them.
“The fans in Glasgow love Raymond so our game will be really special to play in. He’s a class act and has looked good the last couple of weeks so I think it will be a great match.”
The night in Glasgow also sees two players locked on four points, Daryl Gurney and Mensur Suljovic, meet in a key clash, while bottom player Gerwyn Price searches for his first win of the season against Rob Cross.
World Champion Cross, though, is in confident mood after claiming four successive victories to move into third place in the table.
“I’ve been working hard recently and I’m feeling good,” said Cross. “My doubles went great last week but my scoring wasn’t as relentless so it’s not all come out yet but it was an improvement.
“I feel great at the minute and I’m a lot more comfortable in the Premier League now. As long as I’m focused and I know I’m playing well, I’ll get the results.”
A small number of tickets are still available for Thursday’s Unibet Premier League at The SSE Hydro, and can be purchased through www.thessehydro.com and 0844 395 4000.
The Unibet Premier League will be broadcast live on Sky Sports from 7pm on Thursday nights and shown worldwide through the PDC’s international broadcast partners.
In addition, the Unibet Premier League will feature radio commentary throughout the season on talkSPORT and talkSPORT2. For further details of coverage, please visit www.talksport.co.uk.
Unibet Premier League
Night Seven – March 22
The SSE Hydro, Glasgow
Daryl Gurney v Mensur Suljovic
Michael van Gerwen v Michael Smith
Gary Anderson v Simon Whitlock
Peter Wright v Raymond van Barneveld
Rob Cross v Gerwyn Price
Tickets via www.thessehydro.com and 0844 395 4000
Unibet Match Odds – Night Seven, Glasgow
33/20 Daryl Gurney
6/5 Mensur Suljovic
33/100 Michael van Gerwen
6/1 Michael Smith
11/25 Gary Anderson
5/1 Simon Whitlock
17/10 Peter Wright
6/5 Raymond van Barneveld
2/5 Rob Cross
11/2 Gerwyn Price
Odds courtesy www.unibet.co.uk and correct at time of writing. Subject to fluctuation.