The world’s top two collide as the Premier League roadshow rolls into Cardiff on Thursday night, with Rob Cross continuing his bid to become the third player in Premier League history to top the league phase.
Phil Taylor and Michael van Gerwen are the only two players to do so, with Van Gerwen topping the tree every year since making his Premier League debut in 2013.
Nevertheless, the Dutchman’s unblemished record is in serious jeopardy this year, as Cross leads ‘Mighty Mike’ by one point with five matches remaining.
The pair lock horns at the Motorpoint Arena in a clash that could prove decisive in the pursuit for top spot, so we run the rule over the rivalry between the two most recent world champions.
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Van Gerwen will be hoping to maintain his impressive record over ‘Voltage’ to reclaim top spot at the Premier League summit.
The world No 1 has won 13 of his 16 meetings against Cross, including all four of their Premier League tussles.
Van Gerwen defeated Cross 10-6 in the play-offs twelve months ago, while all three of their league meetings have seen MVG run out a comprehensive 7-2 winner, with the most recent outing coming in Dublin on Night Three.
Nevertheless, their most memorable showdown saw Cross topple ‘The Green Machine’ en route to World Championship glory in 2018.
The pair both posted ton-topping averages in a contest containing 31 maximums, but Cross came out on top in a sudden-death classic which propelled him to victory on his Ally Pally debut.
The Hastings thrower also defeated Van Gerwen 11-6 to clinch Brisbane Masters glory in August 2018, but their most recent clash came in March’s European Darts Open final – with MVG prevailing 8-6.
Season so far…
Cross has been the epitome of consistency in this year’s Premier League, having posted eight ton-plus averages this season – more than any other player.
The 2018 world champion has won seven of his last eight fixtures since losing to Van Gerwen in Dublin, and the solitary blip came in Rotterdam where he incredibly relinquished a 5-1 lead against Mensur Suljovic.
Van Gerwen has notoriously enjoyed an air of invincibility in the league phase over recent years, but he endured an uncharacteristic mid-season blip which saw him claim just three points from four matches.
Nevertheless, normal service has been resumed for the world champion over recent weeks. He’s pocketed seven points from his last eight, while he posted a stunning 109.11 average – his highest of the season so far – to dismantle Michael Smith in Liverpool last week.
“After the Worlds I learnt a lot last year. I truly believe I didn’t develop, it halted the progress I was making. This year I feel better. I feel more able; I feel the whole game has got stronger really. So when I won the Worlds, I feel a better player now.
“Don’t get me wrong it doesn’t mean you will win titles because I haven’t won anything yet this year, but at the same time going into next week, providing I’m right, I won’t do what I did in Ireland.
“When I played Michael in Dublin I tried too hard, instead of just letting the darts go and letting the darts do the talking. I started forcing and then I missed doubles in the first leg. Once you’re 3-0 or 4-0 down you’re chasing the game and you definitely don’t want to chase against him.
“I’m in my third year and as much as you want to be the finished article and you want to be playing the best darts of your life, you’ve got to wait your time. I’ve still not had my prime, but maybe we’ve seen Michael’s.
“I’ve been steady this year and not made a lot of mistakes. I performed well against Michael Smith and I want to keep it going – but there is more to come.
“Rob is playing really good darts at the moment so I know I’m going to have to play at my best to beat him next week, and this win [over Smith] is good for my confidence.”