World number one Michael van Gerwen can return to the top of the Premier League table when he doubles up at the Manchester Arena on Thursday evening, as Jelle Klaasen and Kim Huybrechts face a battle to preserve their survival hopes.
‘The Green Machine’ has a game in his hand on his fellow competitors having missed night five in Exeter due to a back problem, therefore the reigning Premier League champion plays twice in Manchester.
The world champion will be looking to preserve his unbeaten record and return to the top of the table; a position currently occupied by UK Open champion Peter Wright. Van Gerwen kicks off proceedings against James Wade, before returning to face his fellow countryman Raymond van Barneveld to round off the night’s action.
Van Gerwen is feeling confident heading into a potentially decisive night, insisting: “I’m the world number one and I think I should be top of the league so this is my chance. I’m quite confident because I’ve won the league for the past three years and I want to do it again this year. I’m in a good position now.
” I don’t have any problems with my back and I just have to make sure I prepare myself well on Thursday and play as well as possible. Playing two games is always tough but I’ve done it before – we do it in the second half of the league – and won both matches, so I’m feeling good,” the world number one added.
Nevertheless, ‘Mighty Mike’ will face a tough test against two players currently occupying spots in the top four. James Wade returned to winning ways last week after easing past home favourite Jelle Klaasen, who continues to struggle with a tendonitis problem in his wrist.
Wade is currently third on eight points, ahead of Raymond van Barneveld via legs difference. Van Barneveld secured his second straight league win after dismantling Gary Anderson in front of an adoring Rotterdam crowd, and the five-time world champion will be hoping to replicate that type of performance against MvG.
Elsewhere, Judgmement Night could come seven days early for Jelle Klaasen and Kim Huybrechts, who must avoid defeat in their respective matches to keep alive their hopes of avoiding elimination in Cardiff next week.
Klaasen and Huybrechts are rooted to the bottom of the table on three points apiece, three points adrift of their nearest rival Dave Chisnall, who will be absent in Manchester after doubling up in Exeter. Both men are also four points behind the trio of Adrian Lewis, Gary Anderson and Phil Taylor, who are not yet mathematically sure of survival.
Klaasen faces a rejuvenated Adrian Lewis tomorrow night, with ‘Jackpot’ searching for his third consecutive victory. ‘The Cobra’ claimed: “It’s a big match. The Premier League isn’t over for me yet and I’ll do everything I can to not get eliminated. I’ve had a good rest since Rotterdam and I hope that my wrist doesn’t hurt much and I’ll have a good chance to win the game.”
Kim Huybrechts is the only player yet to register a Premier League win this season, and he must avoid defeat against world number two Gary Anderson to avoid suffering elimination for his second successive campaign.
“It’s a big game in that I’m playing a two-time World Champion on the Premier League stage, and maybe it’s a last chance to save myself. I’ve just got to focus on the game though because if you get focused on the table then it only causes extra pressure.
“The ten players are all very good and can be at the top of the league or get in trouble at the bottom too – I’ve had plenty of chances to get more points but have blown then and that shows that you can’t afford to miss in the Premier League,” the Belgian admitted.
Finally, Peter Wright will be aiming to continue his fine form when he faces 16-time world champion Phil Taylor. Snakebite currently tops the table on eleven points, but he will drop to second if Van Gerwen secures maximum points from his double-header.
Whilst Wright is aiming to cement his position at the summit of the Premier League, Taylor is seeking to avoid his third successive defeat. His unbeaten record was ended in week six by his fellow Stoke star Adrian Lewis, before he was beaten 7-4 in Rotterdam by Michael van Gerwen last week, despite leading 3-0 at one stage.
Betway Premier League
Night Eight – Thursday March 23
The Manchester Arena
Michael van Gerwen v James Wade
Kim Huybrechts v Gary Anderson
Peter Wright v Phil Taylor
Jelle Klaasen v Adrian Lewis
Raymond van Barneveld v Michael van Gerwen
|After Night Seven||P||W||D||L||+/-||LWAT||Pts|
|Michael van Gerwen||6||4||2||0||+12||14||10|
|Raymond van Barneveld||7||3||2||2||+1||12||8|