TABLE-TOPPER Michael Smith and World Champion Rob Cross will clash as the Unibet Premier League returns to action at Leeds’ First Direct Arena tonight.
The season’s fifth league night had to be cancelled last week at Westpoint Exeter due to the extreme weather conditions, meaning that Smith remains clear at the top of the standings for the visit to Leeds.
The former World Youth Champion has won his first four games to sit two points clear, and is bidding to continue that run when he meets high-flying Cross tonight.
“It should be a really good game,” said Smith. “Rob’s had an amazing year and he’s come back into form so I know it’s going to be tough. I still don’t feel I’ve been at my best yet so I’m aiming to improve, but so far I’ve been taking my chances and I’ll be trying to do the same this week.”
Cross claimed a narrow win over Smith on his way to World Championship glory at Alexandra Palace, and kick-started his debut Premier League season with successive victories in Newcastle and Berlin.
“My game’s been getting back to where I want it to be and I want to keep that going against Michael,” said Cross, who was a UK Open quarter-finalist last weekend. “He’s had a great start to the season and deserves to be where he is, and I know I’ll have to be good on Thursday. It’s the first time I’ve played in Leeds and it should be a great crowd, and it’s exciting.”
Gary Anderson is aiming to maintain his momentum after winning the UK Open on Sunday night, with the two-time Premier League champion up against winless Daryl Gurney.
“I was happy with how I played over the weekend and it was great to win the UK Open,” said Anderson. “Hopefully I can keep that going now in the Premier League because every game’s important. Daryl’s a similar style player to me so there should be lots of 180s and it will be great for the crowd.”
The night’s opening tie in Leeds sees the two players tied on six points, reigning champion Michael van Gerwen and 2012 finalist Simon Whitlock, clash.
Van Gerwen was a first-game casualty against Jeffrey De Zwaan in the UK Open, and is aiming to get back to winning ways at the First Direct Arena.
“It was disappointing that we couldn’t play in Exeter and then I lost to Jeffrey in the UK Open, but this is a new day and I’m looking forward to playing Simon,” said Van Gerwen.
“He won his first three matches and he’s playing well, so I know what I’ve got to do on Thursday. I’ll prepare myself and make sure I’m ready for Simon.”
The night in Leeds will also see world number two Peter Wright take on Austrian star Mensur Suljovic, while 2014 Premier League champion Raymond van Barneveld meets Welshman Gerwyn Price.
Tickets for tonight’s Unibet Premier League at the First Direct Arena in Leeds are still available via www.eventim.co.uk and 0844 248 1585.