Michael van Gerwen striving to retain darts title at The O2 next week

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The only thing that counts for me is winning the tournament, and nothing else," said a focussed Michael van Gerwen ahead of next week's darts showdown at The O2.

"It's nice I have qualified for the finals but the next step is winning. It's going to be difficult but I can do it - I showed that last year."

The reigning Betway Premier League title-holder - not to mention world champion - is in prime position to retain his title at this year's Betway Premier League Darts Play-Offs on May 22. He is currently holding top place in the table.

Fresh from victory against five-time world champion and fellow Dutchman Raymond van Barneveld in Newcastle earlier this month, he'll take on Peter Wright today (Thursday) in Brighton before the North Greenwich clash next week.

And, despite suffering from a spot of flu, the 25-year-old said his steady run of form had proved good preparation.

He said: "This season is going well. At some points, I must need 2-3% more to be extra sharp but I can't blame myself too much.

"I'm doing well, I'm on top of the league and I played really well against Raymond last week. I want to do the same next week in the finals.

"The finals are massive - they're very difficult and you need to prepare yourself so well because it's a tough event and you know you're going to play at least two very good players."

One such dartsman, 16-times world champion Phil Taylor, hopes to pin down one of the four qualifying spots this evening.

Van Gerwen branded him the "biggest rival" to the 2014 title and £150,000 winners prize fund in what would be a repeat of last year's final if played out again on the same stage.

His fellow countryman, van Barneveld, will also be making the trip to North Greenwich, with the final place to be confirmed.

And after victory at the "fantastic" venue in his debut season, van Gerwen says his preparations next week will mirror those in 2013.

"You need to be focussed 100%, you can't afford to make mistakes, because the players will punish you," he said.

"You need to make sure you're relaxed as, if you have too much on your mind, that's not good for the darts."

Tickets for the Betway Premier League Darts Play-Offs are still available from The O2 via 0844 856 0202 or online at axs.com.

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