Dave Chisnall to open Premier League season against Robert Thornton

The Premier League cast of 2016 with Dave Chisnall back right.
The Premier League cast of 2016 with Dave Chisnall back right.
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Dave Chisnall opens his new Betway Premier League season against Robert Thornton in Leeds on Thursday night.

The pair met as recently as Saturday with Chisnall coming from 8-0 down to beat the Scot 10-9 in the opening round of the Unibet Masters, where the Morecambe ace reached the final.

Chisnall was a semi-finalist in last year's Betway Premier League after finishing second in the league table to Michael van Gerwen.

He has since landed a nine-dart finish at the SINGHA Beer Grand Slam of Darts, as well as reaching the Masters final as he closes in on his target of claiming his maiden televised title.

"Last year was good," added Chisnall. "I played steady darts all the way through the season. When you're playing on TV every week, you know where you stand and it keeps you in form and in practice on the big stage.

"I was one of the favourites to be eliminated so I was very pleased with how it went, and it turned out to be a great year. I don't think I've played my best darts all the time since, but sometimes you aren't at your best and winning.

"I know I can do better and hopefully this year will bring the best out of me. I've set a goal this year to win a few tournaments, including one on TV. I know it will come and I just need to make sure I put in the practice and this year I'll be doing more than ever."

Chisnall lost in the semi-finals of last year's Premier League to eventual champion Gary Anderson, who survived three missed match darts from his rival before snatching victory in the deciding leg.

Chisnall refused to dwell on the loss, and said: "It wasn't meant to be. It wasn't my time then, so hopefully I can get to The O2 again and beat him if we play again!"

Thornton played in the 2013 and 2014 Premier League and makes his return this year.

He said: "I'm glad to be back in it and it should be fun.

"Darts is so big now and being in the Premier League has made it a little bit sweeter for me.

"In the first year I was in it I finished fifth and the following year I just avoided the cut - and nobody wants to go out after nine weeks. You've got to be at your best all the time, and if you don't perform you'll be out."

Elsewhere at the First Direct Arena reigning champion Gary Anderson takes on Adrian Lewis, world number one van Gerwen faces James Wade, Peter Wright is up against debutant Michael Smith and there is a clash between two great rivals Phil Taylor and Raymond van Barneveld.

Chisnall’s meeting with Thornton is the final match of the night.

The season’s opening nine weeks see the players face each other once before the bottom two players in the league table are eliminated, leaving eight stars to compete for Play-Off places.

In total there will be 15 league nights across the UK, Ireland and Netherlands before the final four meet in the play-offs in London in May.

Live coverage begins on Sky Sports 1 at 7pm.