PHIL TAYLOR and Raymond van Barneveld will resume their rivalry when the McCoy’s Premier League Darts visits Belfast’s Odyssey Arena on Thursday, as Adrian Lewis and Andy Hamilton meet in a rematch of January’s World Championship final.

Taylor and van Barneveld have enjoyed a string of brilliant contests since the Dutchman joined the PDC in 2006, often reserving their best form for each other.

Although van Barneveld edged out Taylor to win his fifth World Championship title in 2007 and also took victory in three successive meetings in the UK Open, he has yet to defeat the Stoke great in the Premier League – taking only one draw from 12 previous matches.

Taylor has warmed up for their clash in ominous form, hitting a 112 average in the opening week of the Premier League against Adrian Lewis before powering in a nine-darter in coming back from 5-3 down to defeat Kevin Painter 8-5 last Thursday in Aberdeen.

“I’m looking forward to it – I don’t know if Raymond is though!” said Taylor.

“He’s playing well at the moment, his heart’s back in the game, his head’s right and he’s produced some brilliant darts in the last two weeks. That’s great to see and I know it will be a fantastic game.”

Van Barneveld has also enjoyed a strong start to the year, drawing against both Simon Whitlock and Lewis, and took victory in two clashes with Taylor away from the TV cameras last October, in Players Championships in Spain.

“With Phil, you know what you have to do – you have to win legs in between 12 and 15 darts, otherwise he will win the match,” said van Barneveld.

“I’ve beaten him twice recently off television, and you do get chances against Phil – but it’s about taking them. He’s phenomenal and I can’t wait to play him.”

The night in Belfast, being played in front of a sell-out 8,000 crowd at the Odyssey Arena, also features a rematch of January’s World Championship final as Lewis takes on Andy Hamilton.

Lewis took a 7-3 win at Alexandra Palace to retain the World Championship title, but is looking forward to a tough test against his Stoke rival.

“Andy’s gained a lot of confidence from reaching the World Championship final and he’ll be no pushover,” said Lewis. “I’ll have to go up there and average 100-plus to beat him.

“I think he deserved a place in the Premier League because, personally, I thought he was the best player in the World Championship going into the final.

“Andy’s a grinding player, similar to myself, and it’s going to be another tough game. You can’t take him lightly and you have to get up there and play at your best otherwise he’ll turn you over.”

Hamilton enjoyed victory on the opening week of the Premier League but was defeated 8-2 by Gary Anderson in Aberdeen a week ago, and is looking to bounce back to winning ways.

“The World Championship final will be a little but on my mind, but I want it to be a better performance this time,” he said. “Adrian had the experience of being there before and I maybe wanted it too much and was trying too hard.

“I felt I was a bit tired in the World Championship final, but this week I’ll be ready and it should be a great game. I’m practising well, I’ve forgotten about last week and I’ll focus on Thursday and go out there to beat Adrian.”

Reigning champion Anderson picked up his first points of the new season last Thursday by defeating Hamilton, and meets winless James Wade in Belfast, with the left-hander having lost to Hamilton and Whitlock so far.

“To win last week was a boost for me but I’ve been struggling, and James hasn’t had the best start either,” said Anderson.

“I want to go up there and hit a 120 average every week, and when you’re struggling it makes everything harder, but it’s not happening for me right now.

“My confidence has gone out of the window, but it’s going to be an important night for us both and we’ll both be desperate to perform well.”

The night’s other game sees Whitlock take on Painter, who was a winner in the opening week before being on the end of Taylor’s nine-darter in Aberdeen.

“Out of all the lads, I’ve probably got a better record against Simon than anyone else, but when people walk on stage they raise their game, so I’m expecting a tough match,” said Painter.

“If you’re going to beat him you’ve got to play well. He’s going to hit 140s and 180s all the way through the match, but I’ve got no fears about anybody and I’m really enjoying it so far.”

After hitting his nine-dart finish in Aberdeen last week, Taylor has been rated at 16/1 by William Hill – the official betting partner of the McCoy’s Premier League Darts – to repeat the feat in Belfast, with odds of 7/1 for any player to land a perfect leg on the night.

The McCoy’s Premier League Darts will be shown live on Sky Sports HD2 from 7pm on Thursday.

McCoy’s Premier League Darts
Week Three
February 23 – Odyssey Arena, Belfast

Kevin Painter v Simon Whitlock
Andy Hamilton v Adrian Lewis
Gary Anderson v James Wade
Raymond van Barneveld v Phil Taylor

Week Three Match Odds, courtesy of www.williamhill.com
Kevin Painter v Simon Whitlock

5/2 Kevin Painter
5/1 Draw
8/15 Simon Whitlock

Andy Hamilton v Adrian Lewis
9/4 Andy Hamilton
5/1 Draw
4/7 Adrian Lewis

Gary Anderson v James Wade
4/6 Gary Anderson
5/1 Draw
2/1 James Wade

Raymond van Barneveld v Phil Taylor
10/3 Raymond van Barneveld
6/1 Draw
4/11 Phil Taylor
William Hill are the official betting partner of the McCoy’s Premier League.

Source – PDC/Lawrence Lustig