Premier League Darts - Night Ten Preview
GREAT RIVALS Phil Taylor and Raymond van Barneveld clash when the McCoy's Premier League Darts visits the Motorpoint Arena on Thursday, as reigning champion Gary Anderson looks to double up in Sheffield.
Taylor and van Barneveld, who have won 20 World Championships and all of the game's major honours between them in the past two decades, have been the Premier League's most impressive performers in the opening nine weeks of this season.
Taylor is unbeaten and, with eight wins under his belt, has already secured his place in next month's Play-Offs, while van Barneveld hit his highest-ever televised average of 112.28 in defeating Kevin Painter last week.
The Dutchman sits level with Simon Whitlock in second place in the league table, having won three of his last four games with a double against Kevin Painter and a win over reigning champion Gary Anderson.
Following his brilliant performance against Painter in Nottingham last week, he is now looking to defeat Taylor in a televised contest for the first time since 2008 when they clash in Sheffield.
"Phil raised the bar and I'm very proud to have hit my highest average on TV last week," said van Barneveld. "It's a big achievement for me and I know now, with these darts, that in the future I can hit averages like this in every game.
"I'm hoping to play well against Phil. Everything has to be right when you play him and you do always get chances, but you always have to hit them because he never seems to miss.
"He's already qualified and I want to be one of the three players alongside him in the Play-Offs.
"It's so close in the league season and that's what we want. I think that even in week 14 there will be players needing to win to get into the Play-Offs."
Although Taylor lost to van Barneveld in the classic 2007 World Championship final and in three successive UK Opens, the Stoke great has dominated their Premier League meetings, taking 12 straight victories since they drew in their inaugural clash in Bournemouth six years ago.
"It could be a classic," said Taylor. "Barney's a different enemy now - he's got his head back on right and he's playing like we know he can do.
"He was absolutely brilliant last week and I'm really looking forward to playing him. It's a game I'm always up for anyway, but this will be special because we're both in great form."
The night in Sheffield could also prove significant to the season of reigning champion Gary Anderson, who competes twice after missing the recent visit to Cardiff whilst attending his father's funeral in Scotland.
World Champion Adrian Lewis, who played twice in Wales, sits out the visit to Sheffield as Anderson opens the night against 2009 champion James Wade and returns for the final game against World Championship finalist Andy Hamilton.
"I need to win at least one of the two games," said Anderson, who has won just three games from eight so far this season but could move up as high as second place on Thursday.
"I've got a game in hand so if I win one game I'll be on eight points and if I can pinch another one I'll be on ten.
"Two or three wins in the next couple of weeks will put me back up the table, so if I can win the two games in Sheffield it will lift me - I'm not holding up the table yet!"
Simon Whitlock, who is in second place in the table alongside van Barneveld, plays Kevin Painter in the night's other match in Sheffield having performed superbly in seeing off Anderson 8-2 last week with a 101 average.
"You have to hit a 100 average to win these days - if you don't you're in trouble," said Australian ace Whitlock. "Anything over 95 is good, but if you throw over 100 you'll win a lot of games.
"The way the McCoy's Premier League season is going at the moment it's going to be a very tight finish. The For and Against is important and as long as I'm in the top four I'll be very happy.
"My goal is to make the top four and then see where I can go from there, and I'm on course for that at the moment."
A small number of tickets are still available for Thursday's McCoy's Premier League Darts at the Motorpoint Arena, Sheffield by calling 0114 256 56 56 or visiting www.motorpointarenasheffield.co.uk.
Tickets: 0114 256 56 56 or www.motorpointarenasheffield.co.uk
Week Ten Match Odds, courtesy of WilliamHill.com
James Wade v Gary Anderson
13/10 James Wade
11/10 Gary Anderson
Simon Whitlock v Kevin Painter
4/9 Simon Whitlock
16/5 Kevin Painter
Phil Taylor v Raymond van Barneveld
1/4 Phil Taylor
11/2 Raymond van Barneveld
Andy Hamilton v Gary Anderson
7/4 Andy Hamilton
4/5 Gary Anderson
William Hill are the official betting partner of the McCoy's Premier League Darts.