VAN GERWEN & PRICE POISED TO RENEW RIVALRY IN EXETER
Reigning champion Michael van Gerwen is bidding to extend his lead at the top of the Cazoo Premier League table on Thursday, as the sport's biggest roadshow heads to the Westpoint Exeter for Night Five.
Van Gerwen won his first night of the 2023 season on a dramatic evening in Dublin last week, surviving seven match darts in his decider against Gerwyn Price to triumph in the Irish capital.
Price defied a 110 average from Van Gerwen en route to claiming the Night Two spoils in Cardiff, and the pair will renew their rivalry in Thursday's opening quarter-final in the South West.
"I averaged 110 against Gezzy in Cardiff and lost that game, so he knows I owed him one," quipped Van Gerwen, who is eyeing a record-breaking seventh Premier League crown in May.
"I'm top of the table without even playing my A-game, and that gives me a lot of confidence. [My rivals] know what I am capable of, and you need to believe in your ability."
Price posted averages of 109 and 108 at last weekend's Interwetten Baltic Sea Darts Open to continue his strong start to 2023, and Van Gerwen has vowed to raise his game against the Welshman.
"I know there is a lot of work to do and I need to keep performing," added the Dutchman, who along with Price has featured in multiple nightly finals across the opening four weeks.
"I think from here, there's a lot more to come. There's a lot to fight for in the next 12 or 13 weeks, and I'm feeling good."
The evening's second quarter-final will see World Champion Michael Smith play 2020 runner-up Nathan Aspinall, which leaves the current top four all situated in the same half of the draw in Exeter.
Night Three champion Smith occupies second spot in the table, and the world number one will be hoping to shake off the wrist injury that plagued him during last weekend's European Tour opener in Kiel.
Aspinall, meanwhile, succumbed to Jonny Clayton in last week's quarter-finals, but will be hoping to repeat his Night Two exploits against Smith, which saw him average 105 in a 6-4 semi-final success.
Elsewhere, Night One winner Chris Dobey takes on Dimitri Van den Bergh for a place in the semi-finals, with both players bidding to return to winning ways following early exits in Dublin.
Dobey was beaten by Van Gerwen in the quarter-finals, and the Masters champion is without a win in his debut campaign since dethroning the Dutchman in Belfast's Night One final.
Van den Bergh is locked on five points with Dobey after making an assured start on his return to the Premier League fold, and the Belgian is hoping to make it five different nightly winners in as many weeks.
"I'm just enjoying the experience and that's all I can do," claimed Van den Bergh, a Night Three finalist in Glasgow.
"I already have five points and I can't take that for granted, especially when you're playing against the best players in the world.
"I am taking the positives. I could have got more points, but I'm playing well, I'm learning a lot and every week I am getting stronger.
"I know I can win one of these nights and that is what I'm believing in. I feel confident, relaxed and hopefully it will be my night in Exeter."
Thursday's other quarter-final showdown features a crucial clash at the bottom of the table, as 2021 champion Jonny Clayton plays 2017 runner-up Peter Wright.
Following a sluggish start to his season, Clayton has recorded successive quarter-final victories to move on to four points, while two-time World Champion Wright remains winless in this year's competition.
The Scot has succumbed to Dobey, Aspinall, Van den Bergh and Smith in the first four weeks, with quarter-final ties against Price and Van Gerwen to follow on Nights Six and Seven respectively.
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.
Fifth Night's Quarterfinals:
Michael van Gerwen v Gerwyn Price
Nathan Aspinall v Michael Smith
Dimitri Van den Bergh v Chris Dobey
Jonny Clayton v Peter Wright