Gerwyn Price is confident of defeating Michael van Gerwen for the first time to maintain his unbeaten start to the 2019 Unibet Premier League in Nottingham on Thursday.
The highly-anticipated match-up at the Motorpoint Arena will see fourth-placed Price look to preserve his record as the only player yet to taste defeat in this year's competition against third-placed Van Gerwen, who is without a win in his last two Premier League outings.
The pair have enjoyed similar starts to 2019, both winning two ProTour titles, and both taking seven points from their opening five matches in this year's tightly-grouped Premier League.
Van Gerwen followed up his third world title with a fifth successive Masters crown but his recent disappointments in the Premier League sandwiched a UK Open exit at the first hurdle to Mervyn King as Price impressed en route to reaching the semi-finals.
The Grand Slam of Darts champion, who has yet to defeat MVG in 13 attempts, told www.pdc.tv: "Obviously Michael is the number one player in the world and the reigning World Champion, but I know I can give him a good run and I'm confident I can beat him.
"Every time in the past when I've played the likes of Michael I've thought 'can I do it?' but now I'm in a position where I know I can.
"I knew I needed to win last week against Mensur [Suljovic] ahead of this week's tough game against Michael and even though I wasn't at my best I managed to keep my good run going.
"I'm not afraid of him or anybody and I know if I play my a game I can beat him. You always know he's going to play well but if his 'A game' comes out then I'll have to bring my 'A+ game' out."
After claiming his maiden televised title against Gary Anderson last November, Price suffered a miserable run of early exits at the Players Championship Finals, World Championship and The Masters.
However, since getting his second Premier League campaign underway the Welshman has enjoyed a purple patch which saw him come close to doubling his televised title tally at the UK Open at the start of March.
"At the moment I'm probably the best player in the world in terms of form but that can change in the space of 24 hours or even two minutes," Price added.
"I was very disappointed not to win the UK Open, but take nothing away from Nathan [Aspinall], he did the right things at the right moments and I was pleased for him that he went on to win it.
"At the time I was gutted, but I've got over it now and moved on with the Premier League, and I'm happy with where I am at the moment."
Van Gerwen, who has won the league phrase every year since his debut in 2013, is hungry to bounce back from recent disappointments and prevent going three games without victory for just the second time in Premier League history.
He said: "I’m really looking forward to the match against Gerwyn. He is in good form and has done really well recently to be fair to him but I know – and he knows – that I play close to my best game I will win.
"I’ve shown many times that I have what it takes to bounce back from disappointed results and come back stronger and I am aiming for that to start on Thursday night."
Elsewhere, UK Open champion Nathan Aspinall will compete in Nottingham as the latest Contender to replace Gary Anderson.
The Stockport ace was selected in February shortly after his superb run to the World Championship semi-finals at Alexandra Palace, where he made his big-stage breakthrough, and has since gone on to win his maiden major title.
Aspinall will face Michael Smith, who beat him at the Ally Pally, and said: "It should hopefully be another good game. The semi-final was a great game - Michael played phenomenal darts so hopefully on Thursday night I can get my own back on him.
"I'm not just getting brought on as a contender, I'm getting brought on as a major winner, so I'm really looking forward to the walk-on!
"I've been in the World Championship semi-finals, won a major and am in the top 16, and none of it's really sunk in. At the moment it's all a bit of a blur, but I would really like to make my mark in the Premier League."
"I'm going to enjoy it and hopefully it's going to be the most enjoyable game that I've played in my career so far, in front of a massive crowd.
"I know I won the UK Open, but my performances weren't my best so I want to play at the level I know I can play at and prove to everyone that I'm worth a shot in the Premier League next year."
James Wade, the 2009 champion, moved to the top of the league table following his Exeter win over Van Gerwen and whitewash of Daryl Gurney a week ago, and he faces Suljovic in Nottingham as he bids to continue his strong start to the year.
Wade has the highest match average and tournament checkout percentage of the nine regular competitors, and is averaging a joint-highest 101.30 following five weeks.
"I'm happy with how the season's going so far, I still believe I'm one of the best in the world, if not the best at chosen times," said Wade.
"I know I can play darts and I believe every dart player knows I can, and I can hurt anyone. But it's the same as every story, talk is cheap.
"People think darts is all about averages but people are concentrating too much on numbers rather than just enjoying themselves."
Departing Dutchman Raymond van Barneveld will continue his search for a first win of the season against former World Champion Rob Cross, while Daryl Gurney will be looking to end a run of two losses against world number three Peter Wright.
Premier League: Week Six Fixtures
- Nathan Aspinall v Michael Smith
- James Wade v Mensur Suljovic
- Rob Cross v Raymond van Barneveld
- Gerwyn Price v Michael van Gerwen
- Peter Wright v Daryl Gurney
2019 Premier League Darts Table
- Wade P 5 W 3 D 1 L 1 LegD +11 Pts 7
- Cross P 5 W 3 D 1 L 1 LegD +8 Pts 7
- Van Gerwen P 5 W 3 D 1 L 1 LegD +7 Pts 7
- Price P 5 W 2 D 3 L 0 LegD +7 Pts 7
- Wright P 5 W 2 D 2 L 1 LegD +3 Pts 6
- Suljovic P 5 W 1 D 2 L 2 LegD -5 Pts 4
- Gurney P 5 W 2 D 0 L 3 LegD -10 Pts 4
- Smith P 5 W 1 D 1 L 3 LegD -5 Pts 3
- Van Barneveld P 5 W 0 D 2 L 3 LegD -10 Pts 2