Michael van Gerwen is targeting a third consecutive nightly victory in the Cazoo Premier League on Thursday, as the sport’s biggest roadshow rolls into Liverpool for Night Six.
Reigning champion Van Gerwen has claimed back-to-back wins in Dublin and Exeter to establish a six-point cushion at the top of the table, and is bidding to extend his lead at the M&S Bank Arena.
Van Gerwen defeated 2021 champion Jonny Clayton in Exeter’s Night Five final last week, and the pair will renew their rivalry on Merseyside, in the evening’s second quarter-final clash.
The Dutchman has made a strong start to 2023, but he comes into Thursday’s play smarting from his deciding-leg defeat to Andrew Gilding in a dramatic UK Open final last Sunday.
“I am here to win tournaments and when you don’t do that, it is disappointing,” conceded Van Gerwen, who missed a match dart at double 16 for the title in Minehead.
“It was painful for me. It hurt. Everybody knows that I want to win, but I will take it on the chin.
“I am focused on Thursday now. I’m six points clear. The will to win is there, and when you get confidence in the Premier League, it is massive.
“I want to be top of the table, so the pressure is on every week and you have to perform.”
Thursday’s quarter-final action will begin with Night Two winner Gerwyn Price taking on Peter Wright, who is desperate to open his Premier League account following a run of five straight defeats.
Price slipped to fourth in the table after succumbing to Van Gerwen in Exeter last week, while 2017 runner-up Wright was denied by Clayton in a nervy last-leg shoot-out at the Westpoint.
“I am looking forward to playing Gezzy," declared Wright, who dispatched Price to lift the Nordic Darts Masters title in January.
“Even if I had won the night in Exeter, I would still have been bottom, but I've got plenty of time to turn it around.
“I am nowhere near my best, but in the last two weeks I’ve lost both games 6-5, so I’m getting closer!"
Elsewhere, Nathan Aspinall will bid to cement his position in the top four when he plays Night One winner Chris Dobey for a place in Thursday’s semi-finals.
Masters champion Dobey has not tasted victory since his Night One exploits in Belfast, although he’s hopeful of ending his winless run against Aspinall, who currently occupies third spot.
“I’m happy with where my game is at. I’m not going to kick myself when I’m down,” reflected Dobey, who averaged 104 in defeat to Dimitri Van den Bergh on Night Five.
“I’m going to keep plugging away and hopefully the results will turn in my favour, because I believe I’m playing well enough.
“I am loving the Premier League. It’s a whole new experience for me playing in massive venues, and I’m just hoping to bounce back and get a couple of wins under my belt.
“I believe in my own ability, and I feel that I’ve got the power to get myself back into the top positions.”
Thursday’s other quarter-final tussle pits World Champion Michael Smith against Van den Bergh, in a repeat of Glasgow’s Night Three showpiece, which saw Smith average 109 en route to glory.
However, Van den Bergh continued his impressive start to the campaign with a run to the UK Open semi-finals last weekend, and the Belgian heads to Liverpool in positive mood.
“Michael Smith is the current World Champion – he’s one of the very best in the world,” claimed Van den Bergh, who is two points adrift of Smith in fifth place.
“We’re talking about the Premier League though – there are no bad players involved!
“What Michael achieved last year was amazing. I have so much respect for what he’s done and he’s set the example for us all.
“If Michael can do it, why can’t I? If you are patient and you work hard, your dreams can come true as well.”
The 2023 Cazoo Premier League will be broadcast live on Sky Sports in the UK & Ireland, through the PDC's worldwide broadcast partners including DAZN, Viaplay and VTM, and on PDCTV for Rest of the World Subscribers.
2023 Cazoo Premier League
Night Six - Thursday March 9
M&S Bank Arena, Liverpool
Gerwyn Price v Peter Wright
Michael van Gerwen v Jonny Clayton
Chris Dobey v Nathan Aspinall
Michael Smith v Dimitri Van den Bergh
Price/Wright v Van Gerwen/Clayton
Dobey/Aspinall v Smith/Van den Bergh
All matches best of 11 legs