Premier League Darts: Michael van Gerwen faces Rob Cross on opening night

Premier League darts players in 2018
Defending Premier League champion Michael van Gerwen (front, centre) and his nine fellow competitors will battle for a first prize of £250,000

Reigning champion Michael van Gerwen will take on PDC world champion Rob Cross on the opening night of the 2018 Premier League Darts.

The 16-week tournament, which begins in Dublin on Thursday, includes four debutants - Cross, Daryl Gurney, Mensur Suljovic and Gerwyn Price.

Peter Wright, Raymond van Barneveld, Simon Whitlock, Michael Smith and Gary Anderson complete the 2018 line-up.

Van Gerwen won his third Premier League title in 2017, beating Wright 11-10.

Cross, 27, beat world number one Van Gerwen in a thrilling semi-final at the World Championship in December, before claiming the title with a 7-2 win over the retiring Phil Taylor.

"I don't look at the game as revenge because we're going to play each other so many times," said Van Gerwen, who retained his Masters title in Milton Keynes on Sunday.

"I want to put the pressure on Rob straight away and continue my form from last weekend.

"There's a lot of new players but that will make it more fun for everyone. In my opinion, I think these guys deserve to be here based on last year - they all stood up and showed their class."

Rob Cross beats Michael van Gerwen
Rob Cross beat Michael van Gerwen in a sudden-death leg at the 2018 World Championship

Victory at the Alexandra Palace capped a remarkable debut year for Hastings thrower Cross, who only turned professional 12 months earlier.

"Last year was a bit of a whirlwind, a learning curve all the way through, and this year will be no different," he said.

"Usually I deal with it and I'm going to enjoy it. The challenge of going out every week in the Premier League I think is excellent. It's a great opportunity to show what I can do.

"I've never experienced the Premier League so it's going to be a little bit new and it will take a couple of weeks to settle in."

Six players from last year's tournament miss out this time around - Taylor, Adrian Lewis, James Wade, Dave Chisnall, Jelle Klaasen and Kim Huybrechts.

The final takes place at London's O2 Arena on 17 May.

Round one fixtures

Mensur Suljovic v Simon Whitlock

Gary Anderson v Michael Smith

Daryl Gurney v Raymond van Barneveld

Michael van Gerwen v Rob Cross

Peter Wright v Gerwyn Price

Top Stories