Phil Taylor’s Betway Premier League swansong will see the legend lock horns with Raymond van Barneveld for potentially the final time at Leeds’ First Direct Arena on Thursday.
The pair have met over 70 times in competition since 1990 and created arguably the sport’s greatest rivalry since Dutch hero Van Barneveld joined the PDC circuit in 2006.
With Taylor set to retire at the start of 2018, the pair’s Premier League meeting in Leeds could be their final meeting on the big stage as the legendary Stoke thrower continues his farewell year.
Van Barneveld has been in arguably the form of his career in recent months and defeated Taylor 5-3 in the World Championship quarter-finals at Alexandra Palace in December in their most recent meeting.
The Dutchman has also dominated their Premier League tussles in the past three years with four victories and two draws from seven clashes since Taylor’s semi-final triumph in the 2013 season.
“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.”
The pair shared arguably darts’ greatest ever match in the epic 2007 World Championship final, with Taylor avenging that loss to Van Barneveld with victories in seven other televised finals since.
“It’s still special, more so than anybody else to be honest,” admits Taylor. “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 I think and their rivalry, it’s a bit special to me. These nights are special – they’re the games you remember.
“It’s my last season and I was looking around at Nottingham last week and thinking it’s the last time I’d be playing there.
“It’s great in a lot of ways, it’s time for me to retire and that’s what I’ll be doing and I’m going to enjoy every minute of it now.”