PREMIER LEAGUE VISITS SOLD-OUT ROTTERDAM FOR DECISIVE FINAL LEAGUE NIGHT
THE Betway Premier League makes its first visit to continental Europe on Thursday as Rotterdam Ahoy hosts the sell-out final league night, where Michael van Gerwen and Phil Taylor face off for the League Leader's Bonus after Adrian Lewis and Peter Wright battle for the final Play-Off spot.
A sell-out 10,000 crowd will welcome the Premier League's first visit to the Netherlands, where high-profile Dutchmen van Gerwen and Raymond van Barneveld will headline the appearance of the sport's leading players in their homeland.
Van Gerwen's clash with 16-time World Champion Taylor will have added significance with the pair battling to claim the 25,000 pound League Leader's Bonus, which has been introduced in 2016 to reward to player who finishes at the head of the regular season's league table.
The pair are locked on 24 league points following the previous 15 matches, with van Gerwen's superior leg difference meaning that he requires a draw or a win against his great rival to finish at the head of the standings.
"I've never played in front of a crowd like this in my home country, so it's going to be special and I can't wait," said van Gerwen, who has finished at the top of the table for the past three seasons.
"It's good for darts and good for the fans that it's me against Phil. I hope I can keep my good form up because I want to go into the Play-Offs as the league leader, which would give me a great feeling.
The fans have waited such a long time for this and I hope they can enjoy themselves, because they deserve an evening like this in Holland. It's fantastic for darts and I will get goosebumps, for sure!"
Taylor, meanwhile, know that he must defeat the world number one if he is to finish at the top of the table for a ninth time, having headed the standings for eight straight seasons from 2005-2012.
"I can't wait and it's going to be a massive occasion," said Taylor, the six-time Premier League champion. "People have said to me that I'll have nobody getting behind me and they'll all be cheering for Michael, but that can bring pressure too so we'll see what happens. He's been great this season but it would be brilliant if I can finish top. Qualifying for the Play-Offs was the first goal, but obviously the 25,000 pound bonus is a big incentive too. It's going to be a cracker and he'll be tough to beat, but I think I'm going to give him a good game and I'll enjoy it. What he does, I say it's unbelievable but it isn't because he does it week-in and week-out. He's just a phenomenal player, he's brilliant and I can't knock him. How he does it, I don't know."
With van Gerwen, Taylor and reigning Premier League champion Gary Anderson having already secured their Play-Off places for next week's finale at The O2 in London, the night in Rotterdam will also see either Lewis or Wright claim the fourth spot.
Lewis travels to Rotterdam a point ahead of Wright, with the Stoke star set to take on Anderson in a repeat of January's World Championship final as he bids to reach the Play-Offs for the first time since 2011.
"Obviously it was disappointing to lose to Phil last week but it's still in my hands and I'm going all out to make the Play-Offs," said Lewis. "I always enjoy playing Gary because it's my kind of pace of match, and hopefully I can get the result."
Wright, meanwhile, meets 2014 Premier League champion Raymond van Barneveld in his final fixture - and with the Scot on stage before Lewis' clash he is aiming to crank up the pressure to claim his first appearance in the Play-Offs.
"I put the pressure on Adrian last week by beating James, and Adrian losing to Phil in Manchester has given me that chance now," said the colourful star. "I've still got to get a result against Raymond to keep the pressure on and I'll be giving it everything. There will be an amazing, immense crowd and they might be the Barney Army, but I'll be trying to get the crowd on my side! I can't wait for it - I've got a nice orange shirt ready!"
Defeats in his last two matches have ended van Barneveld's Play-Off challenge, but the Dutchman is bidding to end the season on a high in front of his home fans in Rotterdam.
"It's really exciting, a dream come true," admitted van Barneveld, a five-time World Champion whose success helped to build the sport's popularity in the Netherlands. "I can't wait to play tomorrow night, even though I've got no chance to make the Play-Offs. The atmosphere will be thrilling. I'm going to do my very best to get two points against Peter because winning is the best medicine in darts!"
The night's opening contest sees James Wade, whose Play-Off hopes were ended with a defeat to Wright in Manchester a week ago, taking on Robert Thornton, who sits in eighth place.