OVER 5,000 fans will pack into the Hallam FM Arena in Sheffield on Thursday to see the world’s best darts players battling it out on the biggest night in the PDC’s history. The Holsten Premier League Darts will be played in front of the biggest crowd ever for a PDC event, with fans clamouring for tickets to see the meeting between Phil Taylor and Raymond van Barneveld. The two will meet in a rematch of the Ladbrokes.com World Darts Championship final as van Barneveld looks to continue his recent dominance over Taylor.

Their five meetings in 2006 saw the pair claim two wins each and one draw, before van Barneveld took the World Championship trophy from Taylor in their dramatic final at the Circus Tavern on New Year’s Day. He followed that up with a straight sets win over Taylor in the recent Masters of Darts tournament in Holland, and is now aiming to inflict a first ever Premier League defeat upon the 13-time World Champion. “I’m in good form and I’m going to work hard to hopefully give him his first defeat in the Premier League,” said van Barneveld.

“The last two times we’ve played I have beaten him, but you can’t look back against him. “You have to look forward – it doesn’t matter how many times he’s beaten you or you’ve beaten him, it’s a new game. “He’s still the number one but I am focused on getting that.”Taylor, who has won the first two Premier League titles, has won his last two matches of this year’s event after a shaky start saw him draw with Roland Scholten and Dennis Priestley.

Having changed his darts, begun practising with Andy Hamilton and embarked on a diet and fitness regime since losing his World Championship title, he feels his game is getting back to its peak. “It was a wake-up call, not just for my darts but my life in general,” reflects Taylor. “Ray’s probably put ten years on my life. “He wants to be the best player ever but he’s got what I want now. “He’s come across to the PDC and done what he wanted to do. Perhaps I took him lightly, but I’m not going to any more.

“He’s brilliant, a great player. He’s not undefeatable but he’s a scrapper, best when his back’s against the ropes. “He was 4-1 down against Terry Jenkins last week and came back to draw, so you’ve got to keep the pressure on him. “I’m comfortable and enjoying things at the moment and this match will be a real scrap. I have to hit top gear.” The eagerly anticipated contest will be the final of four matches staged at the Hallam FM Arena.

Yorkshireman Dennis Priestley heads into his “home” venue currently unbeaten and top of the table following three wins and a draw in the first four weeks. The 56-year-old, who lives just 11 miles away in Mexborough, meets former World Matchplay finalist Colin Lloyd, who got his first win of the 2007 campaign last week against Roland Scholten. The Dutchman – now the only player without a victory – faces Adrian Lewis in the night’s opening game, with Terry Jenkins and Peter Manley also clashing.

Limited tickets remain on sale from the Hallam FM Arena Box Office on 0114 256 5656.

Holsten Premier League Darts – Sheffield Hallam FM Arena

Adrian Lewis v Roland Scholten
Dennis Priestley v Colin Lloyd
Terry Jenkins v Peter Manley
Raymond van Barneveld v Phil Taylor

Live on Sky Sports, 7.30pm

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