Premier League Darts week 8 - Dave Allen
GREAT rivals Phil Taylor and Raymond van Barneveld clash as the McCoy's Premier League Darts visits Glasgow on Thursday, while Wes Newton, Adrian Lewis and Gary Anderson continue their battles to avoid relegation from the event at the SECC.
The penultimate league night before the bottom two stars are relegated from the ten-player event sees the world's top players visit a sold-out SECC, which will host five crucial matches.
Whilst the tension comes from the clashes involving players at the bottom of the table, the night also features the meeting of reigning Premier League and World Champion Phil Taylor and current Grand Slam of Darts champion Raymond van Barneveld.
The pair have enjoyed many classic duels in the past, most recently in the semi-finals of the World Championship, in a game which saw van Barneveld hit back from 5-1 down in sets to level before Taylor edged through in a game which was overshadowed by their post-game disagreement on stage.
Dutch ace van Barneveld is joint top of the table alongside fellow countryman Michael van Gerwen, and is bidding to win his first ever Premier League game against Taylor in Glasgow.
"We've solved what happened at the World Championship and we're still friends," said van Barneveld. "We'll forget all about that game this week and I have to because it's a big game.
"In all these years in the Premier League I've never beaten him and only got one draw, so it would be a dream to beat him. I know I can do it but I'll have to lift my game from last week when I drew with James Wade.
"This is a shorter format than the World Championship, the best of 12 legs, so I know I have to start well. I didn't play my game in the first four or five sets the last time we played and I'm not sure why.
"Perhaps it was because he is Phil Taylor, but I played so many great matches in the World Championship up to that point and against him I didn't turn up.
"When I did turn up I was 5-1 down and it was a tough battle because from that far behind against Phil Taylor you're never going to beat him."
Van Barneveld had ended a five-year gap between major title wins when he claimed last November's Grand Slam of Darts title, and Taylor admits he was delighted to see his great rival return to top form.
"Of all the players I've ever played - and I've played some fantastic players around the world down the years - I think Barney's my favourite one to play against," said Taylor.
"Win, lose or draw, he's the most exciting player to play against. Dennis Priestley is probably the best player I've ever played against, and Jocky Wilson was probably the most spectacular player, but Barney is probably my favourite.
"I'm really happy with what he's done in the last six months. I hated Barney not playing as well as he can do.
"I know we fall out sometimes but we don't fall out properly, and I'm not just a friend of Barney's but I'm a fan of his and a genuine lover of what he does.
"I'll have to play well on Thursday because it will probably be the toughest game I'll have in the whole season. It's a sell-out crowd and they love their darts, and it will be a great night."
The opposite end of the league table features a crucial clash as the bottom two players, Wes Newton and Gary Anderson, face off in a game which could decide their hopes of avoiding relegation next week.
Newton sits on three points, currently two adrift of Anderson and Adrian Lewis, and knows that a defeat will end his first Premier League campaign after nine weeks.
"I know what I've got to do and I'll be giving it my best shot," said Newton, who has lost his last three matches. "Gary's another great player and it will be brilliant to play him in front of his home fans, no matter what the result.
"But I know that I've got to win and hopefully I can do that, because I'm loving the Premier League and I'm doing everything I can to try and avoid relegation and make it beyond next week."
2011 Premier League champion Anderson, meanwhile, is looking to bounce back from his 7-1 loss against Michael van Gerwen in Cardiff last Thursday when he steps onto the Glasgow stage.
"I'm playing well but I've come up against some players who've put in sensational performances in the last couple of weeks," said Anderson.
"Hopefully I'll keep playing well and get a bit of luck this week, and I'd love to give the Scottish fans plenty to cheer."
Lewis plays Stoke rival Andy Hamilton in another key clash, with the world number two looking to continue his return to form against his fifth-placed opponent before preparing to play van Barneveld in Brighton next week.
"I've got a tough run-in, the same as everyone else, and it's going to be a really tough game this week," said Lewis. "I'll go up there this week and try my best, and I know that if I play my best I've got a great chance.
"I'm unbeaten for the last three weeks but it's do or die now. Andy's a great scorer and a great finisher, and he shows a lot of aggression so it will be a quality game.
"He got to the semi-finals last year and it was his first year in the Premier League, so he's got a lot more experience now and is showing his class."
Another tasty battle sees in-form league leader van Gerwen play 2009 Premier League champion Wade, who sits in fourth place.
"I'm really, really looking forward to it," said Wade. "We all know how well Michael can play but I'm doing pretty well so far this season.
"I wasn't happy with my performance when I drew with Raymond van Barneveld last week and I'm working hard to put that right."
The night's other game sees the Premier League's other Scottish star, Robert Thornton, face Simon Whitlock, with both knowing that a victory could secure their place in the final weeks of the tournament.
The McCoy's Premier League Darts at the SECC is a sell-out, with coverage live on Sky Sports HD2 from 7pm, as well as live in on RTL7 in the Netherlands, Sport1 in Germany, OSN across the Middle East, Fox Sports in Australia and via LIVEPDC.TV.
McCoy's Premier League Darts
March 28 - SECC, Glasgow
Adrian Lewis v Andy Hamilton
Simon Whitlock v Robert Thornton
Phil Taylor v Raymond van Barneveld
Gary Anderson v Wes Newton
Michael van Gerwen v James Wade
Latest League Table
P W D L +/- Pts
Michael van Gerwen 7 4 2 1 +15 10
Raymond van Barneveld 7 4 2 1 +10 10
Phil Taylor 7 3 2 2 +8 8
James Wade 7 3 2 2 +6 8
Andy Hamilton 7 4 0 3 +3 8
Robert Thornton 7 2 3 2 -1 7
Simon Whitlock 7 3 0 4 -5 6
Adrian Lewis 7 2 1 4 -10 5
Gary Anderson 7 2 1 4 -12! 5
Wes Newton 7 1 1 5 -14 3