Premier League 2017 - Preview Third Evening

GREAT rivals Phil Taylor and Raymond van Barneveld will lock horns on the Betway Premier League stage as the tournament visits Leeds' First Direct Arena on Thursday. Both Taylor and Van Barneveld are amongst five unbeaten players following the opening two league nights of the 2017 Premier League season in Newcastle and Nottingham.

The pair's meeting in Leeds could be their final competitive fixture as Taylor continues his countdown towards retirement at the start of next year - which would bring to an end arguably the sport's greatest-ever rivalry.

Taylor's impressive 17-4 win record against Van Barneveld in 25 Premier League contests since 2006 matches his dominant ratio against the Dutch legend throughout their illustrious careers. However, Van Barneveld's four Premier League wins over Taylor have all come in the past three years, while he also took victory in their most recent meeting in the World Championship quarter-finals on December 30.

"Ray's got his confidence up now, he's beaten me the last couple of times and I think he thinks he's got something over me now," said Taylor, the six-time Premier League champion and 16-time World Champion. "It will be a good game and I'll enjoy it. It will be a great crowd in Leeds too, they always give good support. To me Leeds is probably one of the best venues we play at. Wherever you're sat you've got a good view and it's always a good night, they're great people and it's a perfect venue for me against Barney."
Taylor has picked up over 50 wins against Van Barneveld since their first-ever meeting back in 1990, and admits that the rivalry still excites him ahead of their Leeds tussle.
"It's still special, more so than anybody else to be honest," said the 56-year-old. "Raymond's the one I enjoy playing more than anybody - it's the old memories of when I first made my name and when he first made his. It's like Eric Bristow and John Lowe and their rivalry, it's a bit special to me. These nights are special - they're the games you remember."

The night in Leeds also pits two other great rivals - Adrian Lewis and James Wade - against each other as they both search for their second victories of the new season. The pair have enjoyed a string of high-profile contests throughout the past decade, while Lewis landed a nine-dart finish when they clashed on the Premier League stage in Belfast last year.

"We were two youngsters who came through around the same time and we've had some great matches down the years," said Lewis. "I think I've been in the top 16 now since probably the second year of my career and James has been too, so we must be quite consistent if we've been in the top 16 for the last ten years. You know with James that he'll never give in and it's going to be a battle; he can win ugly and that shows his grit and determination. I get frustrated with myself because you want that perfection - I could hit five ten-darters and still be frustrated with hitting an 18-dart leg! It's a weird game. Last year I hit a nine-darter against James, so hopefully in Leeds I can show something to the crowd again. If I could hit a nine-darter there, I'd love it."

Unbeaten reigning champion Michael van Gerwen takes on Jelle Klaasen in all-Dutch battle which sees the latter aiming to claim his first points of the season. Van Gerwen, meanwhile, achieved a moment of history with two nine-dart finishes in one match on his way to victory in a UK Open Qualifier last Friday.

An all-Scottish clash sees the players ranked second and third in the world, Gary Anderson and Peter Wright, also meet - with colourful Wright having won his third ranking title in the space of nine days on Sunday.

Night Three also sees basement rivals Dave Chisnall and Kim Huybrechts bidding to win their first games of the season, with the Belgian ace having claimed a draw with Van Barneveld in Nottingham last week.
"It's the Premier League, you're playing the ten best players in the world and you can't afford to miss," said Huybrechts. "When you miss you lose, it's as simple as that. A draw was probably a fair result last week but I've got to keep fighting."

Third Night's Matches:
Gary Anderson v Peter Wright
Adrian Lewis v James Wade
Phil Taylor v Raymond van Barneveld
Michael van Gerwen v Jelle Klaasen
Dave Chisnall v Kim Huybrechts

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