The Unibet Premier League season begins at Dublin’s 3Arena on Thursday as reigning champion Michael van Gerwen and new World Champion Rob Cross clash in the first of 16 weeks of action.
The sport’s widest-reaching event will visit Germany for the first time this season as Berlin’s Mercedes-Benz Arena joins Rotterdam Ahoy in hosting a European night of the event.
However, all eyes will be focused on a sold-out 3Arena for Thursday’s opening clashes as the new-look Premier League – which features four debutants amongst six changes from 2017 – begins with five huge matches.
The night’s headline contest sees world number one Van Gerwen beginning his bid to win a fourth Premier League in six years against new superstar Rob Cross.
Cross defeated Van Gerwen in a classic World Championship semi-final a month ago before going on to claim the Alexandra Palace title by defeating Phil Taylor in the decider.
Van Gerwen – who won last weekend’s Unibet Masters to prepare for the Premier League in perfect fashion – has dismissed talk of being on a revenge mission when he steps on stage in Dublin.
Cross’s remarkable rise has seen him move up to third in the world in only a year as a professional, and the 27-year-old is excited by the prospect of his Premier League debut.
2017 Premier League runner-up Peter Wright – who missed six darts to defeat Van Gerwen in last year’s final – is looking to get his campaign off to a winning start against debutant Gerwyn Price.
Price lost out to Wright in the 2017 UK Open final, and the Welshman is looking to enjoy his elevation to the Premier League stage.
2014 Premier League champion Raymond van Barneveld will play Northern Irish debutant Daryl Gurney – October’s World Grand Prix champion in Dublin – with the Dutchman on a high after reaching Sunday’s Masters final in a superb opening to 2018.
Two-time Premier League winner Gary Anderson takes on Michael Smith, who returns to the tournament after previously competing in 2016.
Australia’s Simon Whitlock also returns to the Premier League stage, having reached the 2012 final in one of five previous appearances, as he takes on Austria’s Mensur Suljovic, the Champions League of Darts winner who is making his Premier League debut.
Van Gerwen is the 8/11 pre-tournament favourite with sponsors Unibet, with Cross the 7/2 second favourite, Anderson rated 6/1 and Wright the 7/1 fourth favourite.
8/11 Michael van Gerwen
7/2 Rob Cross
6/1 Gary Anderson
7/1 Peter Wright
25/1 Raymond van Barneveld
33/1 Mensur Suljovic
40/1 Daryl Gurney
50/1 Michael Smith
100/1 Gerwyn Price
150/1 Simon Whitlock
Night One Match Odds:
9/10 Mensur Suljovic, 33/10 Draw, 23/10 Simon Whitlock
11/20 Gary Anderson, 4/1 Draw, 33/10 Michael Smith
8/5 Daryl Gurney, 33/10 Draw, 6/5 Raymond van Barneveld
8/13 Michael van Gerwen, 18/5 Draw, 33/10 Rob Cross
3/5 Peter Wright, 19/5 Draw, 13/4 Gerwyn Price