PDC Premier League darts: The race for the play-offs begins in Sheffield
Last Updated: 12/04/13 2:17am
Michael Van Gerwen: Doubles up with matches against Phil Taylor and James Wade
The race to win places in the McCoy's Premier League Darts Play-Offs begins in earnest at the Motorpoint Arena in Sheffield on Thursday.
Following the elimination of Wes Newton and Gary Anderson last week in Brighton, the remaining eight stars now face each other once more over the next month.
With five league nights remaining before the top four players qualify for May's Play-Offs at The O2 in London, each player will play two matches in a night twice in the coming weeks.
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This week it is the turn of Michael Van Gerwen to double up with games against Phil Taylor and James Wade.
"I don't mind about playing twice - I'd love to play every game every evening!" smiled van Gerwen. "I know that's not going to happen but I like to play darts and I like to win, and I'm doing both of those things at the moment.
"I'm very proud to be at the top of the table but I want to keep myself there, and that will be hard. We've got seven games to go and I want to win them all - but it will be very difficult."
Wade, the 2009 Premier League champion, is level with van Gerwen and Raymond van Barneveld on 12 points following an impressive first half of the season, and meets Adrian Lewis in Sheffield before taking on the Dutch youngster.
"I'm very happy with how things have gone so far," said Wade. "I'm playing well again and my finishing is coming more easily, but I'm not quite doing what I want to do yet.
"I'm working hard in practice to keep improving and it's close to being right, so hopefully two games in Sheffield will bring that out. When it does come right, the other players will have to watch out!"
Van Barneveld's win over Lewis last week in Brighton saw him keep pace with his rivals at the top of the table, and he faces Andy Hamilton in Sheffield.
Lewis had lost his first four games but has picked up three wins and a draw since, and is hoping to continue his challenge for a semi-final place in Sheffield.
"I out-scored Raymond last week but missed a lot of doubles so I know what I've got to tighten up," said Lewis. "I've had four good weeks before that game, though, so I've come back into form and given myself a good chance.
"It was obviously a relief to stay in the Premier League last week and I want to challenge for the Play-Offs now."
The night will kick off when Robert Thornton, who sits in fourth place in the league table on 11 points, bids to follow last week's win over Taylor with victory against Simon Whitlock, who is five points adrift of the Play-Off places.
World number three Lewis joined Whitlock in avoiding the threat of elimination last week, despite losing out 7-2 to Raymond van Barneveld when he hit just two of 12 attempts at doubles.