Van Gerwen aiming for Belfast win

Michael van Gerwen. Pic by Lawrence Lustig/PDC
Michael van Gerwen. Pic by Lawrence Lustig/PDC

The Betway Premier League comes to Belfast for Week Four on Thursday night, as Michael van Gerwen bids to extend his lead at the top of the table when he faces Adrian Lewis at the Odyssey Arena.

Van Gerwen is the only player to have won all three of his fixtures in the early stages of the season, defeating Kim Huybrechts, Stephen Bunting and Gary Anderson to move a point clear of Dave Chisnall in the standings.

The Dutchman also continued his winning streak this month by picking up victory in a UK Open Qualifier last weekend - his fifth tournament win of February - and is in confident mood as he prepares to face world number four Lewis in Belfast.

“I feel good and I want to keep this going,” said van Gerwen. “I wasn’t at my best against Gary last week and I still won so that gives me a lot of confidence. “Adrian’s a great player and we always have good games so I’m looking forward to it. I’ve enjoyed going to Belfast in the last two years and I’ve played well there, so it’s exciting for me.”

Van Gerwen sits a point clear of Dave Chisnall, who followed up two victories with a draw against James Wade in Liverpool last week.

The St Helens thrower takes on Kim Huybrechts in Belfast, with the Belgian newcomer having picked up his first point of the season with a draw against Lewis in his most recent game.

“It’s going to be a big game for us both,” said Chisnall. “I’ve got five points so far but I want to keep winning and build on that.

“I practice with Kim a lot and I know what he can do, and I don’t think he’s found his best darts in the Premier League yet - but he had a tough start and he’ll want to kick on.

“I’ve got more Premier League experience but that doesn’t mean I’m the better player anything because we’re all good players and you’ve just to make sure you perform on the day.”

Having picked up his first point of his debut Premier League season, Huybrechts is now looking to continue his progress in front of over 7,000 fans at the Odyssey Arena.

“I put a lot of pressure on myself in the first couple of weeks with being in the Premier League and that didn’t work out very well,” said Huybrechts. “I said to myself before Liverpool that I’ve finished with proving myself, just enjoy it and do what you can.

“The Premier League is the best experience you can have as a darts player and you have to enjoy it, because if you don’t it’s going to pass you by so fast. I’m going to enjoy every moment that I’m on stage.”

He added: “Dave is one of my best friends on the tour and we practice together a lot, so it’s going to be a relaxed game anyway.

“With most of the players in the Premier League, there will be chances and the only thing you have to do is take them. I did that last week - the first point is the hardest to win, so I want to build on that now.”

James Wade is the league’s only other unbeaten player following three weeks, having picked up a win and two draws ahead of his meeting with World Champion Gary Anderson who is on his way to Loughgall FC for an exhibition on May 22.

Wade had drawn with Chisnall a week ago but said: “I’ve got to put last week behind me and move on, and I’ll be ready because Gary’s been flying recently.

“He’s been a breath of fresh air for darts, a new star and it’s really good, it’s been brilliant to see.

“For him to come through and start playing brilliant darts has been great. I can be there or thereabouts too and don’t think I’ll be too far away.”

Six-time Premier League champion Phil Taylor joined Wade and Anderson on four league points with his 7-1 win over Stephen Bunting last week, and he will take on Peter Wright.

Wright picked up his first point of the season when he came back from 5-1 down to draw with Raymond van Barneveld last week, but Taylor is aiming to continue his strong recent form.

“He’ll be under pressure but all the players are under pressure because I’m playing better, my darts are suiting me and everything’s right, and I’m getting better with each week,” said Taylor.

“You won’t win the Premier League by playing lovely darts every week, sometimes you have to go up there and battle it out - but I’m feeling good but if anybody competes with me I think I’ll play better.

“I think I’m more dedicated and more committed than ever and I’m a little bit fresher than some of the other lads.”

Reigning Betway Premier League champion van Barneveld and debutant Bunting meet in the night’s other clash, with both having picked up just one point from the opening three weeks.

A small number of tickets for Thursday’s Betway Premier League at the Odyssey Arena are still available by calling 028 9073 9074 or online at www.odysseyarena.com

Betway Premier League Night Four schedule:

Kim Huybrechts v Dave Chisnall

Gary Anderson v James Wade

Michael van Gerwen v Adrian Lewis

Stephen Bunting v Raymond van Barneveld

Phil Taylor v Peter Wright