TOP FOUR AND SCOTTISH RIVALS TO CLASH AS BETWAY PREMIER LEAGUE VISITS EXETER
RECORD-BREAKER Michael van Gerwen and World Champion Gary Anderson will head a star-studded night of the Betway Premier League at Exeter's Westpoint Arena on Thursday night.
The ten-player roadshow event makes its annual visit to Devon for the fifth league night of the 2016 season, coming only a week after van Gerwen created history.
The Dutchman recorded a world record televised average of 123.40 as he powered to a 7-1 win over Michael Smith in Aberdeen last Thursday as he claimed his third victory in four matches this season.
Van Gerwen will play unbeaten league leader Peter Wright in Exeter, and is aiming to maintain his stunning form after winning a trio of games since his opening-night loss to James Wade.
"It was fantastic last week, probably the best game of my life, and I hope I can do that again in this Premier League," said van Gerwen, who is now the 10/11 odds-on favourite with sponsors Betway to take the title in May. I'm feeling great, but I've got to stay focused this week and prepare myself to play Peter. He's doing well so far this season but I'm also really happy with how I've played since losing in the first week."
Wright followed up three successive victories with a draw against Scottish rival Robert Thornton last week to leave himself a point clear at the top of the league table ahead of his high-profile showdown with van Gerwen.
"Michael's playing well but every game's different," said Wright. "There's a lot of respect between us now and it should be an amazing game.
I'm still not totally happy with my form and that's why I've been changing my darts because I'm searching for perfection, but I'm practising well and getting results."
The league's two other players with three wins under their belts this season, Phil Taylor and Adrian Lewis, also clash in an all-Stoke contest at the Westpoint Arena.
Taylor enters the battle in superb form himself after averaging 115 in his win over Dave Chisnall in Aberdeen, a performance which would have gained him the headlines had van Gerwen not already broken his world record average.
The 55-year-old six-time Premier League champion admitted: "I'm working hard at the moment, enjoying it and getting the rewards. It's not just about the darts but your concentration too now because it's so competitive, and my concentration is perfect. Adrian's been playing really well and it's going to be another cracker with him. We know each other's games inside out and I know what he's going to do, but he'll know what to expect from me too."
Lewis has also enjoyed a strong start to the season to follow on from his appearances in the finals of the Players Championship Finals and World Championship in recent months.
"I'm playing well at the moment and I'm happy with how things are going," said Lewis, the 2011 Premier League runner-up.
"I'll be ready for Phil and making sure I'm getting prepared because I've got to, with the way he's been playing. It's always special coming up against him and I can't wait."
Reigning Premier League champion Gary Anderson is aiming to build on his first victory of the season - picked up against Raymond van Barneveld in Aberdeen - when he takes on fellow Scot Thornton, who has picked up just one point so far.
"I'm looking forward to it," said Anderson, who is based in Somerset. "The last time I played Robert in Exeter, a couple of years ago, he absolutely battered me! It was probably his best performance in the Premier League so I've got to hope he doesn't do that again! You've got to play well every week though and I'm getting back to my best so I'm fairly happy."
Thornton's basement rival Michael Smith - who also has just one point so far this season - takes on 2014 Premier League champion van Barneveld in Exeter, while Chisnall and James Wade will be looking to avoid being drawn into a battle against elimination when they face off.