Whitlock enjoys positive start

15 February 2018 04:08:17 EST

Australian ace Simon Whitlock is determined to carry on making his mark on his return to the elite ten-man field of the Premier League of Darts.

Whitlock, making his first appearance in the tournament since 2014, has begun his campaign in style with victories over Mensur Suljovic and reigning PDC world champion Rob Cross.

Those results see him top the fledgling table alongside Michael Smith, ahead of the Week 3 action in Newcastle on Thursday evening.

There Whitlock takes on Dutchman Raymond van Barneveld, who has a win and a draw to his name from his opening two matches.

He told Sky Sports: "I think I've proven myself. I'm number eight in the world rankings now and I think I thoroughly deserve to be in there.

"I'm going into the match pretty confident. I'm not going to think about it too much because you just worry, so you can't really stress about who you're playing, it's just another big game.

"On paper it should be a close match, but anything can happen on a Thursday night at the Premier League. I really enjoy playing Barney, we do a lot of exhibitions together so we do actually play each other a lot."

Whitlock can be backed at 13/5 to defeat Van Barneveld and is 15/2 to claim a 7-4 victory, with the Australian 1212/1 to be crowned Premier League champion come the end of the season.

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