Darts: World-class heavyweights set for a showdown in Leeds

Raymond van Barneveld and Michael van Gerwen.
Raymond van Barneveld and Michael van Gerwen.
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LEEDS WILL host a blockbuster showdown between two of darts’ all-time greats next month.

Sixteen-time world champion Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor will take on Dutch master Raymond van Barneveld – winner of five world titles – when the PDC Betway Premier League visits the First Direct Arena on Thursday, February 16.

The match-up is a repeat of the duo’s world final of a decade ago when van Barneveld beat Taylor in a sudden-death deciding leg in what is rated by many as the greatest darts game of all time.

Taylor, who has won the Premier League six times, will be out for revenge after being knocked out of the 2016-17 world championship by the Dutchman at the quarter-final stage.

After dropping down the world rankings, to no6, Taylor was granted a wildcard entry to continue his ever-present run in the Premier League.

The world’s top four – Michael van Gerwen, Gary Anderson, Peter Wright and Adrian Lewis – qualified automatically with James Wade, van Barneveld, Dave Chisnall, Jelle Klaasen and Kim Huybrechts receiving wildcards.

This year will be the Premier League’s fourth visit to Leeds and another crowd of more than 10,000 is expected.

Leeds has hosted the opening night for the past two years, but the 2017 competition will begin in Newcastle on February 2 before a trip to Leeds two weeks later, in round three.

Anderson – this year’s world championship runner-up – will take on Wright in the Leeds night’s opening match before another two-time world champion, Lewis, goes up against Wade.

The Taylor-van Barneveld head-to-head – known as darts’ El Clasico – is third on before van Gerwen squares up to fellow Dutchman Klaasen.

Van Gerwen, collected his second world crown earlier this month and is the reigning Premier League champion – one of a whopping 25 titles he won in 2016.

He was also voted player of the year, players’ player, fans’ player and best ProTour player at the recent PDC awards.

Klaasen, the rival BDO world title winner 11 years ago, is back in the Premier League for the first time since 2009.

Chisnall will play Huybrechts in the night’s last match.

The 10-strong Premier League field is rated in darts circles as the strongest since the tournament began in 2005.

The players will face each other once over the opening nine weeks of the competition before the bottom two players are eliminated.

The remaining eight play each other again over the remaining six league nights, including at Sheffield Arena on May 4, before the top four contest the play-offs at the O2 in London on May 18.

Fixtures for the Premier League’s visit to Leeds are: 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