Gary Anderson and Michael Smith will put friendship aside when they meet in the Premier League Play-Offs at The O2 on Thursday.
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Two-time Premier League champion Anderson will be looking to make it title number three, kicking off with a mouth-watering semi-final clash against close friend Smith before a potential meeting with either Michael van Gerwen or Rob Cross in the final.
Anderson, who is 2/5 to see off Smith and 4/1 to lift the trophy, secured his Play-Off spot with a win over Van Gerwen in Aberdeen last week, and the Scottish star knows he will have to be at his best to beat his protégé Smith.
"He’s like my adopted son but I will be playing to win,” said Anderson, who recorded a 7-2 win over Smith in their last Premier League meeting in Rotterdam.
Sky Bet's Premier League Darts title odds (Click here to place your bets)
- MVG (1/2)
- Anderson (4/1)
- Cross (7/1)
- Smith (14/1)
“It’ll be great playing Michael on such a massive stage and whichever one of us loses will be there cheering the other on in the final. Whoever wins will be on the wind-up for the next fortnight and neither of us wants to be on the receiving end!”
The two-time world champion has qualified for finals night at The O2 for the fifth successive year, with his finest moment coming in 2015 when he defeated Van Gerwen in the final to lift his second Premier League crown.
Anderson is well aware of the stern test he faces to taste Premier League glory for a third time, but insists he is primed for the challenge.
“Of course, it’s going to be tough to win it on Thursday but I know I have the game to do it. It’s getting to that crunch stage now, and normally that’s when my best game comes out."
The Scotland World Cup star fired in four 180s as he got back to winning ways against Van Gerwen last week, having lost his previous two Premier League encounters.
“I had a rotten couple of weeks before Aberdeen but that win over Michael shows I’ve still got it and now I’m coming into the Play-Offs on the back of a win," said Anderson, who will play Smith in the second semi-final of the evening. It’s been hard since Rotterdam so I was pleased to get the win against Michael.
"I’ll be coming into the game with confidence in what I can do, I’ve done it many times before so I know I can do it again."
Smith, who is 2/1 to beat his mentor and 14/1 to lift the trophy, will also be making his debut Play-Offs appearance, although he has experience of playing on stage at The O2, having won the World Youth Championship final in 2013 against Ricky Evans.
The St Helens star has enjoyed a memorable second Premier League campaign, which saw him end the league phase in second place despite being an 80/1 outsider at the start of the season, and Smith is now focussed on making Thursday the biggest night of his life.
"I believe I can win the Premier league,” said Smith, who beat Anderson 7-5 on the opening night of the season in Dublin. I would love to be introduced to the stage at the World Matchplay in July as the reigning champion of the Premier League.”
- Overall: 3-9
- 2018 Premier League meetings
Anderson 5-7 Smith - Night 1 (Click here for report & stats)
Smith 2-7 Anderson - Night 12 (Click here for report & stats)
- Other TV major meetings
Anderson 10-6 Smith - Grand Slam of Darts L16, Nov '17
Anderson 10-5 Smith - Champions League of Darts Gp, Sept '16
PREMIER LEAGUE DARTS 2018 STATS (Smith first)
- League Position: Second - Third
- Matches Won/Lost/Drawn: Smith 9-5-2 Anderson 8-5-3
- Legs Won/Lost: 90/66 - 95/80
- 3-dart Average: 95.21 - 99.11
- 180s: 41 - 57
- 100+ checkouts: 10 - 17
- Highest checkout: 160 - 170
- Checkout %: 42.45% (90/212) - 42.04% (95/226)
Premier League Darts Regular Season Table
- MVG P 16 W 11 D 1 L 4 LegD +43 Pts 23
- Smith P 16 W 9 D 2 L 5 LegD +24 Pts 20
- Anderson P 16 W 8 D 3 L 5 LegD +15 Pts 19
- Cross P 16 W 8 D 3 L 5 LegD +5 Pts 19
- Gurney P 16 W 4 D 8 L 4 LegD +1 Pts 16
- Barney P 16 W 6 D 4 L 6 LegD -8 Pts 16
- Wright P 16 W 4 D 6 L 6 LegD -20 Pts 14
- Whitlock P 16 W 5 D 3 L 8 LegD -18 Pts 13
- Suljovic P 9 W 2 D 0 L 7 LegD -13 Pts 4
- Price P 9 W 0 D 2 L 7 LegD -29 Pts 2
Suljovic and Price were eliminated after Judgement Night