Phil Taylor relishing Premier League showdown with Raymond van Barneveld at SSE Arena in Belfast

Phil Taylor is preparing to face old rival Raymond van Barneveld in Belfast
Phil Taylor is preparing to face old rival Raymond van Barneveld in Belfast

There has already been one power cut at the SSE Arena this week and Phil Taylor is determined there won’t be another one in the Premier League on Thursday night when he meets his old nemesis Raymond van Barneveld.

‘The Power’ arrives in Belfast top of the league by three points but his only defeat in this year’s competition came at the hands of Barney on opening night in Leeds.

Taylor hasn’t won in Belfast since 2012 when he beat Barneveld 8-4 while the Dutchman – who won the tournament in 2014 – has been victorious on his last three outings at the former Odyssey Arena.

Taylor – a six-time winner of the Premier League and 16-times World Champion – won both his matches in Sheffield last week to open up a three-point cushion at the top of the table, but has played a game more than most of the chasing pack.

“I’m over the moon, four points is four points and that is closer to the O2 and another one or two wins will put me through,” he said.

“With Gary (Anderson) it was a close match at 3-3, he just let me in and didn’t play as well as he can do and I just took advantage of it. That’s what you have to do the minute, you see weakness you have to push forward and I couldn’t do that last year, but this year I am.

“It was a similar story against James (Wade), it was a matter of keeping concentration across two matches. It’s difficult but two points is lovely – I thought it might be a draw. The 177 was my best shot of the night and then the double 12 was the second best.”

Last year for the first time in the 11-year history of the Premier League Taylor failed to make finals night, but he has his sights firmly set on making London in May.

“Every match is a bonus and if I get to the O2 I’ll have the biggest smile on the stage you’ll have ever seen,” he added.

Van Barneveld – a five-time World champion – will play twice tonight and needs to win them both.

Since that win over Taylor on opening night, when he averaged 103.60, the former postman has only won two games and is seventh in the table, six points of the top four.

As well as Taylor, Barney faces fellow struggler Robert Thornton in the last match of the night.

“It’s a big night. The funny thing is that I started the Premier League really well by winning 7-2 against Phil, and I thought it was going to be a great Premier League. And a couple of weeks later I thought it was the worst Premier League ever,” said Barney.

“I was a bit unfortunate against Peter Wright and the draw against Michael van Gerwen.

“Maybe I should have drawn against Michael Smith and I think I deserved three or four points more than the seven points I’ve earned now, but it’s all about finishing.

“My results against Phil in the Premier League for the last three years are phenomenal so I’m really happy although in knockout tournaments Phil has been the better player in nine out of 10 games.

“You can play such good darts now and not necessarily win any more, last year Phil hit a 116 average and he got beaten by me. But we’re playing with the absolute best of the best players and you have to turn up each week.”

Top billing goes to the penultimate match match on stage as the defending Premier League and back-to-back World champion Gary Anderson takes on world No1 Michael van Gerwen in a repeat of last year’s final.

MVG is second in the table, three points behind Taylor but has a game in hand.