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