DARYL GURNEY has described Michael Smith as a "sleeping giant" ahead of their Unibet Premier League clash in Leeds on Thursday.
Smith goes into the final week of the Premier League season unable to reach this year's Play-Offs - having been the runner-up 12 months ago.
The St Helens ace was also the World Championship runner-up on New Year's Day, losing out to Michael van Gerwen, and claimed his maiden TV title at the Shanghai Darts Masters in 2018.
Gurney - who is chasing a Play-Off place going into the final round of matches - has praised the World Youth Champion's natural talent and insists that league positions won't be taken for granted in their First Direct Arena clash.
"Michael Smith is a sleeping giant right now," Gurney told Live Darts. "He could have won against James Wade and Mensur Suljovic recently.
"He's the most naturally gifted player there is on the circuit right now. Michael's been so good - out of the eight players he's the fourth in the average but it's just his doubles letting him down.
"I've got a really difficult game. He's playing so well and all it takes is for him to start clicking on his doubles and he could destroy me.
"Hopefully he does what he's done in two out of the last three weeks and I can get some kind of result out of the game - if I don't, I won't qualify for The O2.
"I think it's going to be a very difficult game."
Gurney sits level with Mensur Suljovic on 17 league points going into the final night, with James Wade and Gerwyn Price also in the hunt for the final two places in the Play-Offs.
The Northern Irish ace had drawn with Price in Sheffield last week, earning headlines for an emotional response at the end of the contest, but is now aiming to focus on his clash with Smith.
"I regret my reaction at the end of the game," said Gurney."I over-reacted and I've apologised to Gerwyn.
"For me, that game was the biggest of the season for me. He was the far better player and probably should have won the game, and I did well to get a draw.
"I came away with a very important point. If I'd lost that game and Gerwyn had won it he would have been in the driving seat to qualify for The O2, but we got a draw so if Gerwyn wins [in Leeds] I've got to win.
"I think it leads for a very interesting last week. I don't remember the last time a Premier League had four players who could still qualify in the last night.
"It's very interesting and the quality of darts is still very good."
The Unibet Premier League's regular season concludes at The First Direct Arena in Leeds on Thursday May 16, with Rob Cross and Michael van Gerwen already confirmed for the Play-Offs.
Tickets are still available by calling 0844 248 1585 or online at this link.
2019 Unibet Premier League
Night 16 - Thursday May 16
First Direct Arena, Leeds
Gerwyn Price v Peter Wright
Daryl Gurney v Michael Smith
Michael van Gerwen v Mensur Suljovic
James Wade v Rob Cross
Tickets: 0844 248 1585 or click here