The world's biggest names set for Premier League Darts return
By Josh Gorton
Last Updated: 04/02/19 3:41pm
Fresh from Michael van Gerwen winning his third World Championship title in sensational style, attention quickly turns towards this year's Premier League Darts, exclusively live on Sky Sports.
Van Gerwen, joined by heavyweight names like Peter Wright and Raymond van Barneveld, will also pit his wits against Michael Smith, who he defeated in last year's Premier League final as well as the World Championship final on New Year's Day.
The quartet of Rob Cross, Daryl Gurney, Gerwyn Price and Mensur Suljovic all feature once again after making their debuts last year, whilst nine-time major winner James Wade returns to the Premier League fold after winning titles at the European Championship and World Series Finals this autumn.
The action begins in Newcastle on February 7, with world No 1 Van Gerwen bidding to defend his title and claim a fourth consecutive Premier League success.
Here, we profile the contenders in with a chance of lifting the trophy at The O2, on Play-Offs night, on May 23.
Michael van Gerwen
PDC Order of Merit: 1st
PL Apps: 6
Last Year - Winner
PL History - Winner (2013, 2016, 2017, 2018)
Van Gerwen has topped the regular season standings every year he has played, and reached the final in all six, underlining his status as the world number one. The Dutchman is bidding to win a fourth consecutive Premier League crown and he will start as a red-hot favourite for title number five.
PDC Order of Merit: 2nd
PL Apps: 1
Last Year - Semi-Finals
PL History - Semi-Finals (2018)
Cross reached the semi-finals in his debut campaign 12 months ago, despite losing his opening two games against Van Gerwen and Simon Whitlock. 'Voltage' will be looking to bounce back after his World Championship title defence was ended by Luke Humphries in the last 16.
PDC Order of Merit: 3rd
PL Apps: 5
Last Year - 7th
PL History - Runner-up (2017)
Wright endured a disappointing campaign last year, narrowly avoiding elimination before finishing the league phase in seventh spot.
Since reaching October's World Grand Prix Final, he's also failed to reach the quarter-finals in any of the next five events, which culminated in a shock second-round exit at the World Championship. Snakebite will be keen to bounce back immediately.
PDC Order of Merit: 5th
PL Apps: 1
Last Year - 5th
PL History - 5th (2018)
Gurney just missed out on a play-off spot on his Premier League debut 12 months ago and the Northern Irishman - who won his second PDC major at November's Players Championship Finals - will be hoping to go at least one step better in 2019.
PDC Order of Merit: 6th
PL Apps: 2
Last Year - Runner-up
PL History - Runner-up (2018)
Smith enjoyed a breakthrough 2018 which all started with a wonderful Premier League campaign.
'Bully Boy' was eliminated on Judgement Night on his debut in 2016 but he came of age on his return by finishing the league phase in second spot, beating Gary Anderson in the semi-finals, before losing to an irrepressible Van Gerwen in the final.
PDC Order of Merit: 7th
PL Apps: 1
Last Year - 10th
PL History - 10th (2018)
Price endured a miserable debut campaign last year, as he suffered elimination on Judgement Night after failing to register a single victory in nine games.
However, the Grand Slam of Darts champion will be hoping to take inspiration from Michael Smith, who reached the final on his second appearance last year, having been eliminated on debut.
PDC Order of Merit: 8th
PL Apps: 1
Last Year - 9th
PL History - 9th (2018)
Suljovic was eliminated alongside Price on Judgement Night last year, despite boasting the second highest tournament average of the competition.
The Austrian ran into a series of inspired displays, but he'll make his return after a hugely consistent year which saw him reach a World Matchplay final and semi-finals at the Grand Prix, Grand Slam and Champions League of Darts.
Raymond van Barneveld
PDC Order of Merit: 28th
PL Apps: 13
Last Year - 6th
PL History - Winner (2014)
2014 champion Van Barneveld will appear in a record 14th consecutive Premier League campaign, usurping Phil Taylor's tally of 13 appearances prior to his retirement.
The five-time world champion has made the play-offs on eight occasions and he'll be hoping to enjoy a successful farewell season.
PDC Order of Merit: 10th
PL Apps: 9
Last Year - DNP
PL History - Winner (2009)
Wade is set to make his 10th Premier League appearance this year, making him the second most experienced player in the field.
'The Machine' was left out 12 months ago but he's returned to the winner's circle in 2018 with titles at the European Championship and World Series Finals, and he'll be hoping to seal a second Premier League crown, a decade on from his 2009 triumph.
The injured Gary Anderson will be replaced in Premier League Darts by nine 'contenders' - with a different player filling in for him every week.
The new rejigged fixtures will feature Chris Dobey in Newcastle, Glen Durrant in Glasgow, Steve Lennon in Dublin, Luke Humphries in Exeter, John Henderson in Aberdeen, Nathan Aspinall in Nottingham, Max Hopp in Berlin and Dimitri Van den Bergh and Jeffrey de Zwaan in Rotterdam.
You can follow every dart when the Premier League action gets underway on February 7 at the Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle, with the season concluding at the Play-Offs on May 23 at The O2 in London.