Michael van Gerwen has set himself the target of eclipsing his biggest year in darts when he launches his new Premier League campaign with a clash of the titans against Phil Taylor on Thursday.

LeylandThe 24-year-old’s World Championship success at Alexandra Palace last month made it four major titles in a magical 12 months for the Dutchman, who also won the Premier League, the Dubai Masters and Players Championship Finals.

Rather than resting on his laurels, van Gerwen is now determined to build on his magnificent recent record and is excited about taking on Taylor, the man he has deposed as world number one, on the opening night of Premier League action at the Echo Arena in Liverpool.

“Last year was fantastic for me and to win the World Championships was a dream come true,” said van Gerwen, who recently announced he will be sponsored by leading trade paint manufacturer Leyland Paints in 2014.

“The four major titles in 2013 were all very pleasing but I have to build on that now.

“I want to stay at the top for a long time and, to do that I need to keep winning tournaments and the aim has to be to try and win more than last year.

“The Premier League is always a massive event and Liverpool is a great venue to start.

“The atmosphere is brilliant in Liverpool and hopefully I can get off to a flying start.”

To do that van Gerwen must get the better of 16-times world champion Taylor, who will be determined to bounce back from a disappointing World Championships which saw him suffer a shock second round defeat to Michael Smith.

“Phil will be ready for this and it’s up to me to make sure that I’m at my best,” added van Gerwen.

“It’s a very big game for both of us and I’m sure Phil will be determined to prove a point.

“But my confidence is extremely high after winning the World Championships and I believe I can defend my Premier League title.”

Meanwhile, van Gerwen’s fellow Premier League star Simon Whitlock also sponsored by Leyland Paints is relishing his demanding start to the Premier League season as he prepares for part one of a world champion triple-header.

Australian Whitlock, who is now based in Waterlooville, is part of a 10-strong star-studded field competing in this year’s Premier League.

The 44-year-old will have to hit the ground running in the 15-week league format after being handed a demanding start to his fixtures. The Wizard of Oz faces a three players with no less than 23 world titles between them in the opening three weeks.

Twice world champion Adrian Lewis is Whitlock’s opponent at the Echo Arena in Liverpool this Thursday, with Raymond van Barneveld and Phil Taylor – who have won five and 16 world crowns respectively – on the agenda over the next fortnight.

But Whitlock, who is sponsored by leading trade paint manufacturer Leyland Paints, isn’t daunted.

“I’m excited more than worried about my first few fixtures,” said the World Championship semi-finalist and current world number three.

“Any time you play against the likes of Adrian, Raymond and Phil it’s a big game and to do it on a massive stage like the Premier League is something to really look forward to.

“If I play my best darts, I’m capable of beating anybody and that’s how I will be approaching these games.

“Adrian is a great player but it’s all going to come down to who performs best on the night.”

Whitlock narrowly missed out on an appearance in the end-of-season play-offs in 2013 and is determined to make it all the way to finals night in May this time around.

“The Premier League has 10 brilliant players this year and whoever finishes in the top four at the end of the 14 weeks will have really deserved it,” he added.

“I know I have the ability to finish in the top four and my world ranking backs that up.

“But I’ve got to get up on the oche and prove it and it’s really important I get off to a good start.”

Leyland Paints who also sponsor Welsh darter Mark Webster was founded in 1922 and has a long and distinguished history as a manufacturer and supplier of decorative paints, particularly targeted at tradesmen.

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