THE 2019 Premier League doubleheader at Rotterdam Ahoy begins with Night Eight on Wednesday, as Raymond van Barneveld battles to keep his survival hopes alive against Daryl Gurney.
The first of two huge nights of darts in the Netherlands will see former Premier League champion Van Barneveld continue his battle against the drop against seventh-placed Gurney ahead of Thursday’s Judgement Night, which will see the ninth-placed player eliminated from the competition.
Van Barneveld, who will retire at the conclusion of the 2019/20 World Championship, picked up his first win of the campaign against German Contender Max Hopp in Berlin last Thursday to go within a point of safety, and the Dutch legend is determined to get the results he needs in Rotterdam.
“My emotions are too high to contemplate saying goodbye to the fans just yet, I want to get two wins for them,” said Van Barneveld, who has starred in every Premier League since his debut in 2006.
“I still can’t believe it’s the last time I will play here in the Premier League, it still hasn’t sunk really sunk in.
“But away from the crowd and all the media attention, I am focused on performing to a good level which will get me the results I need and hopefully I will avoid elimination, which has never happened to me before.”
Gurney knows that he could secure his own survival, and possibly condemn Van Barneveld to elimination in his final season before retirement, in Wednesday’s clash, and is aiming to claim a crucial win.
“It’s going to be difficult because the whole crowd will be behind Raymond,” Gurney said. “I might need earplugs but I think even they wouldn’t drown them out.
“I’m looking forward to the game and it will be a great occasion. I’ll enjoy his walk-on because that will be special, but then I’ve got to focus on my game and trying to get the result.”
Along with Van Barneveld and Gurney, 2018 Premier League finalist Michael Smith and Grand Slam of Darts champion Gerwyn Price are also possible elimination candidates heading into the Dutch double-header, and they will face each other in Wednesday’s opening match.
At the other end of the table, Michael van Gerwen has work to do to catch up with in-form table-topper Rob Cross and maintain his incredible record of topping the league phase every year since his debut in 2013.
The world number one will take on Peter Wright in a repeat of last year’s encounter in Rotterdam, which saw Wright silence the Ahoy crowd with a 7-5 win.
“Lately I’ve been playing really well sometimes but sometimes I’ve made a few mistakes,” said Van Gerwen, who was defeated by Gurney in Berlin last Thursday.
“Rob is in very good form at the moment but there’s still a long journey to go and I’m not worried at all because the gap between us is only two points.
“Last year in Rotterdam I lost both my matches so I can’t do any worse this time around. I can’t wait to get back out there in front of my home fans and I need to make sure I start the matches better than last year.”
Night Eight will also see two-time World Youth Champion Dimitri Van den Bergh make his Premier League debut against James Wade.
Rising Belgian star Van den Bergh, who famously threw a nine-dart leg at the 2018 Grand Slam of Darts, will compete as the eighth Contender in this year’s Premier League, while Wade will be keen to end a run of two matches without a win to maintain his Play-Off charge.
High-flyer Cross, who has enjoyed success on his last four Premier League outings, will face improving Austrian Mensur Suljovic, whose back-to-back wins have propelled him into fourth.
The top four players at the end of 16 nights will face off in the Play-Offs at The O2 on May 23, while the ninth-placed player following Judgement Night in Rotterdam will face early elimination.
Night Eight of the Premier League in Rotterdam will be shown live on Sky Sports, worldwide through the PDC’s broadcast partners, and through PDCTV-HD for Rest of the World Subscribers.
2019 Premier League
Night Eight – Wednesday, March 27
Gerwyn Price v Michael Smith
James Wade v Dimitri Van den Bergh
Rob Cross v Mensur Suljovic
Peter Wright v Michael van Gerwen
Raymond van Barneveld v Daryl Gurney
Judgement Night – Thursday, March 28
Daryl Gurney v Mensur Suljovic
Peter Wright v Gerwyn Price
Rob Cross v Jeffrey de Zwaan
Raymond van Barneveld v Michael van Gerwen
James Wade v Michael Smith