MICHAEL VAN GERWEN is targeting a fifth Unibet Premier League title in Thursday’s Play-Offs, with Rob Cross, James Wade and Daryl Gurney also hoping to claim the prestigious title at The O2 in London.
Reigning Premier League and World Champion Van Gerwen is seeking to avenge his double defeats to Gurney in this year’s tournament when the pair meet in the opening semi-final of the night.
With either Cross or Wade awaiting the winner in the final later in the night, Van Gerwen insists that he has his sights firmly set on overcoming Gurney and maintaining his bid for the £250,000 top prize.
“Daryl played really well against me the last two times we played in the Premier League but I’m always confident,” said Van Gerwen, who could equal Phil Taylor’s record of four successive Premier League titles with victory on Thursday.
“It’s a longer format but I have to do well and we’ll see what’s going to happen. First to ten is totally different, the pressure will be on his shoulders.
“It would be phenomenal to win a fifth Premier League title and it’s always a special night in the Play-Offs. We’ve been playing for 16 weeks and now it’s knockout – it’s all or nothing.
“I need to make sure I get focused because it’s really important for me to do well.”
Gurney’s victory over Michael Smith on Night 16 in Leeds meant the Northern Irishman finished fourth in just his second Premier League campaign.
The world number three is plotting a third consecutive Premier League victory over Van Gerwen in 2019, a feat never before achieved in the history of the competition.
“I’m absolutely delighted to make it to The O2, it really is a dream come true and now anything is possible,” said Gurney, who defeated Van Gerwen to win the Players Championship Finals in November 2018.
“To play in front of a massive crowd at such a famous darts venue is another tick in the box of what I want to achieve in my career and I’m already looking forward to it.
“Of the four players I’ll probably be the fourth favourite, but being the underdog doesn’t bother me as I know what I can do.
“Whenever the pressure is on me, for some reason I play my best darts. When I’m playing the best players in the world it takes me to another level and that’s what I’ll be aiming to reproduce in London.”
The second semi-final will see 2009 champion Wade take on former World Champion Cross in a repeat of last Thursday’s clash in Leeds, which saw Wade run out an 8-6 winner.
Wade will make his first Play-Offs appearance since 2013, and looking ahead to his return to The O2, was feeling confident of his chances of doubling his Premier League title tally.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve been in the Play-Offs but I’ve been playing professional darts for so long now that the pressure shouldn’t get to me,” said Wade.
“I expected myself to make the final but it would be so nice to win it. It’s a prestigious event, against the best players in the world, so I can look forward to the Play-Offs.
“Last week’s game against Rob won’t mean anything – it wasn’t a knockout game and if anything I cost Rob £25,000 so it will give him a bit of fuel! But I’ll be ready for him.“Michael and me are probably the most experienced players in the Premier League. There are better players than me and far more flamboyant players, but I know what I’m capable of and I’m never someone to be written off.”
Cross will be making his second successive Play-Offs appearance in as many Premier League campaigns, having suffered a semi-final defeat to Van Gerwen at last year’s event.
The 2018 World Champion was hampered by a sternum injury in last year’s Play-Offs, and Cross is looking forward to enjoying the experience this time around.
“Last year I was really struggling with my injury and I didn’t get to make the most of my chance to play at The O2,” said Cross.
“This year I’ve enjoyed playing in the Premier League a lot more, and I think that’s been reflected in my improved performances.
“I’ve practiced a bit more, put the hard work in and it’s paid dividends for me. I’ve learnt a lot from my experiences of the last couple of years and it’s finally coming to fruition.
“To win the Premier League would be an amazing thing for me, there’s only a very elite group of players to achieved it and I would love to join that list.”
The Unibet Premier League Play-Offs will be shown live on Sky Sports, worldwide through the PDC’s broadcast partners, and through video.pdc.tv for Rest of the World Subscribers.
Play-Offs – Thursday May 23
The O2, London
Michael van Gerwen v Daryl Gurney
Rob Cross v James Wade
Van Gerwen/Gurney v Cross/Wade
Unibet Premier League of Darts – Outright
Michael Van Gerwen – 1/2
Rob Cross – 4/1
James Wade – 7/1
Daryl Gurney – 12/1
Semi-Finals Match Odds
1/5 Michael Van Gerwen v Daryl Gurney 7/2
8/13 Rob Cross v James Wade 13/10
Odds via www.unibet.co.uk and correct at time of writing. Subject to fluctuation.
Written by Josh Phillips, Pics: PDC / L Lustig