|Unibet Premier League Darts|
|Dates: 7 February – 23 May Coverage: Reports on each round of the group stage and live text of the play-offs on the BBC Sport website and app|
Reigning Premier League Darts champion Michael van Gerwen says the competition will miss injured Gary Anderson.
Two-time winner Anderson, 48, withdrew with a back injury for which he has been receiving treatment since the PDC World Championship in December.
Chris Dobey will initially replace the Scot with eight players, including BDO world champion Glen Durrant, filling in over the next eight weeks.
“It is a huge miss with Gary Anderson not being here,” Van Gerwen said.
“No one can really replace Gary, because Gary is Gary and he is a phenomenal player.
“But it gives other young players a huge opportunity to get more experience.
“I would pick one player (to replace him), but who am I to make a decision? I need to make sure I keep performing and whoever I play I have to beat.”
Van Gerwen, 29, goes into the Premier League after winning his fifth straight Masters title on Sunday. The Dutchman faces Michael Smith in his first match, a repeat of January’s PDC World Championship final.
Anderson was due to face Austrian Mensur Suljovic on the opening night of the tournament in Newcastle on Thursday but will now rest after consulting a physiotherapist.
“This isn’t a decision I’ve taken lightly but I don’t want to let the fans and myself down by putting in performances well below what is expected of me,” Anderson said on Monday.
“My physio has advised me to rest for a few weeks to increase my chances of coming back stronger for the rest of the year and reduce the likelihood of me suffering repeated problems.”
Points won by Anderson’s nine replacements will not count towards the league table, but their opponents will retain theirs if they earn any from the match.
The player who finishes ninth in the table after Judgement Night in Rotterdam on 28 March will be eliminated.
The remaining eight throwers will then battle it out for a place in the top four to make it to the play-offs at The O2 Arena, London on 23 May.
Week one fixtures, Newcastle
- James Wade v Raymond van Barneveld
- Gerwyn Price v Daryl Gurney
- Chris Dobey v Mensur Suljovic
- Michael van Gerwen v Michael Smith