VAN GERWEN PRIMED FOR RETURN TO HOME SOIL

Home hero Michael van Gerwen will take on World Champion Luke Humphries when the 2024 Premier League roadshow rolls into Rotterdam on Thursday.

Night 12 of the darting extravaganza will see quarter-finals, semi-finals and a final played over the best of 11 legs at Rotterdam Ahoy, as Van Gerwen prepares to take centre stage in front of a sell-out Dutch crowd.

Following a stuttering run of form, the Dutch number one returned to winning ways in Birmingham last week, defeating Luke Littler in the Night 11 showpiece to reignite his Play-Off push.

Van Gerwen is now bidding to become the first player to claim five nightly wins in a single season since the current format was introduced, and he’s determined to make history on home soil.

“It’s always fantastic to play in your home country,” admitted Van Gerwen, who lifted the Dutch Darts Masters in Den Bosch back in January.

“It also gives added pressure because you want to perform, but I think after last week I’ve put myself in a good position again.

“I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s game. I always knew that Luke [Humphries] was capable of doing what he’s doing at the moment, so fair play to him.

“I think he has done really well for himself over the last eight or nine months. He is a grafter and he works hard for what he wants to achieve, and you can only admire that.

“It would be magic if I could win here in Rotterdam. With the new [nightly] format I haven’t done too well over here yet, so I hope I change that tomorrow.”

In the evening’s opener, league leader Littler will face 2023 World Champion Michael Smith, as he bids to extend his cushion at the Premier League summit.

Littler moved two points clear of second-placed Humphries after edging out the world number one in a captivating Night 11 semi-final, before his eight-match winning run was halted by Van Gerwen.

Smith, meanwhile, closed to within a point of fourth-placed Nathan Aspinall with a quarter-final win over Gerwyn Price in Birmingham, closing out a 6-3 victory with a 104.45 average – his highest of the season.

The St Helens star has won three of his four meetings against Littler in this year’s Premier League, although the Warrington wonderkid is in relaxed mood ahead of his Rotterdam debut.

“The bigger the arena, the better I play, so I’m really looking forward to tomorrow night,” insisted the 17-year-old, a nightly winner in Belfast and Manchester this season.

“The first five or six weeks were tough, but I think I’ve really settled into the tournament now.

“Coming into the Premier League, I thought if I made the O2 for Finals Night that would be a massive achievement, so to be top of the league after 11 nights is just a bonus.

“Michael [Smith] won’t put too much pressure on himself but he knows he needs to win to keep up with the top four, and I just want to keep going.”

Elsewhere, Rob Cross will aim to snap his six-match losing streak when he meets 2023 runner-up Price, with both men vying to preserve their Play-Off aspirations.

Cross has slipped to sixth in the table having failed to register victory since Night Six, while Price is a point adrift in seventh, despite boasting a 99.51 tournament average – a statistic only bettered by Humphries.

However, Cross has won the pair’s last two meetings by an aggregate scoreline of 13-4, which included a 6-1 demolition on Night Five, where he averaged in excess of 109.

The evening’s other quarter-final clash will see Aspinall play Peter Wright, with Van Gerwen or Humphries awaiting the winner in the semi-finals.

Aspinall celebrated a landmark victory in Rotterdam 12 months ago, and the World Matchplay champion will aim to repeat the feat on his return, having featured in four of the last eight nightly finals.

The Stockport star has also won both encounters against Wright in this year’s Premier League, with the Scot marooned at the foot of the table with four points to his name.

The 2024 BetMGM Premier League will be broadcast live on Sky Sports in the UK & Ireland, through the PDC’s worldwide broadcast partners including DAZN and Viaplay, and on PDCTV for Rest of the World Subscribers.

2024 Premier League

Night 12 – Rotterdam Ahoy

Thursday April 18

Quarter-Finals

Michael Smith v Luke Littler

Rob Cross v Gerwyn Price

Peter Wright v Nathan Aspinall

Michael van Gerwen v Luke Humphries

Semi-Finals

Smith/Littler v Cross/Price

Wright/Aspinall v Van Gerwen/Humphries

Final

Smith/Littler/Cross/Price v Wright/Aspinall/Van Gerwen/Humphries

Photos credit PDC

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