MICHAEL VAN GERWEN and Rob Cross are aiming to secure their Unibet Premier League Play-Off places as the tournament visits The Manchester Arena for a crucial Night 14 on Thursday.
Reigning Premier League champion Van Gerwen sits at the head of the table with three league nights remaining ahead of the Play-Offs on May 23.
The Dutchman is a point clear of Cross but, most importantly, four ahead of the trio of players from third to fifth, with James Wade, Gerwyn Price and Mensur Suljovic all vying to claim a top-four finish.
Van Gerwen takes on Daryl Gurney as he looks to mathematically confirm his place at The O2 in three weeks’ time, and the World Champion is in confident mood following Sunday’s German Darts Open success.
“I want to make sure I’m in the Play-Offs but I’m feeling confident about my game at the moment,” said Van Gerwen.
“I had a good game with James Wade last week and I did well at the weekend in Germany. It would be great to win in Manchester because I want to keep up this form now going to the Play-Offs.”
Gurney has won the last two televised meetings with Van Gerwen, but the Dutch star added: “He’s not going to beat me again.
“If I play like I did in Berlin against him, he can beat me again but if I play like I have been recently, he won’t beat me.”
Play-Off chasing Gurney claimed a 7-5 victory over Van Gerwen when the pair met in Berlin earlier this season, and could put himself into a Play-Off place by repeating that success.
“Unless you’re playing your A+ game you’re going to get beaten, so it’s an easy game to work out,” said Gurney, who defeated Peter Wright in Birmingham last week.
“Michael knows I can beat him now and I’m sure he’s wary of that, but all he wants to do is smash up every player so it won’t make a difference to him.
“I know what I need to do to possibly make the Play-Offs but it’s out of my hands with being a point behind the top four, so I’ve just got to focus on my own games and keep fighting.”
Cross, meanwhile, plays seventh-placed Michael Smith and knows that he can reach the semi-finals for a second successive season with victory in Manchester.
“I’m going to keep pushing for the next few weeks and I feel my game’s been getting better and getting stronger,” said Cross.
“Michael’s got nothing to lose now so he’s going to come out firing, but I’m going up there and playing well and if I get myself right then anything can happen.
“It’s all about getting to the finals night in the Premier League and I’m enjoying it. I will keep getting better.”
Smith, like Peter Wright, has to win his remaining last three matches and hope for other results to go his way if he is to snatch a top-four place.
“I can see my game’s coming back, but in the last few weeks people have seemed to pull out big finishes against me at crucial times,” said Smith, the 2018 Premier League runner-up.
“I’ve drawn three games this season, two with Peter Wright and last week against Mensur Suljovic, and if I’d won I could have been closer to the top four.
“I’ve been practising so hard, especially on my doubles, and they’ve been getting worse!
“I didn’t play well in last year’s Premier League and made the final, and this year I feel I’ve been playing better at times and I’m at the bottom! It’s a weird game and that’s why we love to play it.”
A huge battle in Manchester will see James Wade play Gerwyn Price, with the players sat in third and fourth position in the table heading into the final three league nights.
Mensur Suljovic, the third player locked on 15 points, takes on Wright in a game which could prove pivotal for his own Play-Off hopes.
“I’m trying my best in every game and I hope I can make the top four,” said Suljovic. “Peter is a brilliant player and I love to play him, but it will be a very hard game.”
Tickets for Thursday’s Unibet Premier League at The Manchester Arena are still available and can be purchased through 0844 249 1000 or manchester-arena.com.