Raymond van Barneveld is hoping to celebrate his 50th birthday in style, by completing an unprecedented Premier League double over world number one Michael van Gerwen when the tournament heads to Belfast’s SSE Arena on Thursday night.
The five-time world champion hits the metaphorical bullseye as the Premier League returns to Northern Ireland and he will be desperate to boost his play-off ambitions with victory over his fellow countryman.
Barney is the only man to defeat Van Gerwen in this year’s Premier League; edging out ‘Mighty Mike’ 7-5 in Manchester last month. This halted MvG’s record-breaking 44-match televised unbeaten run, and Barney will be hoping to create further history by becoming the first man in Premier League history to complete the league double over MvG.
Van Barneveld and Van Gerwen are good friends off the oche and both have tremendous mutual respect for each-other, but they’ve also contested many classic tussles on the big stage in recent years, including their last two World Championship thillers.
Barney defeated MvG in a gripping final set in the last 16 of the 2016 World Championships, before Van Gerwen avenged that defeat in the semi-finals of this year’s World Championship, in arguably the highest-quality darts match ever played.
Over the course of eight sets, Van Barneveld converted 68% of his double attempts and posted the third highest average in PDC World Championship history- 109.34. Nevertheless, he was still beaten 6-2 by an irrepressible Van Gerwen, who averaged in excess of 114, in arguably the greatest performance ever seen in professional darts.
Barney maintains that Van Gerwen gets the best out of him, and their recent head-to-head record supports those claims. In their last ten televised clashes, Van Barneveld has won four and drawn one, with MvG holding the slender advantage with five victories. However, RvB has averaged over 100 in nine of those ten matches.
The 2014 Premier League champion currently occupies fourth place in the table and knows that another triumph over table-topping Van Gerwen could be pivotal in his aspirations to reach the play-offs for a ninth time in twelve years. However, Van Barneveld is determined to enjoy the occasion irrespective of the result.
The five-time world champion admitted:“It’s a special birthday for me and I want to enjoy the day. I’m playing Michael but nobody can ruin my birthday. I’m sure I’ll get lots of messages and phone calls but then at some point I’ll try to prepare myself right and I’ll be trying my best to win.”
Barney will be hoping to fare better on his birthday than James Wade did a fortnight ago. ‘The Machine’ faced both Van Gerwen and Van Barneveld on his 34th birthday in Dublin but suffered consecutive losses; despite averaging a staggering 110.82 against MvG in his opening match.
Van Barneveld’s last four league fixtures include clashes against the world’s top three, although that prospect holds no fears for the legendary Dutchman, particularly given his performances against the trio in the first half of this season; where he acrrued five points from a possible six.
“Hopefully I can stop him again – I’ve beaten Michael, beaten Gary and drawn with Peter Wright so I’ve taken five points so far from the top three in the world. Everyone can beat each other and I’m looking forward to the remaining few weeks. I’m still in the top four and hopefully I can get into the Play-Offs.”
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
Betway Premier League
Night 12 – Thursday April 20
The SSE Arena, Belfast
Dave Chisnall v Adrian Lewis
Phil Taylor v Gary Anderson
Peter Wright v James Wade
Michael van Gerwen v Raymond van Barneveld
Dave Chisnall v Phil Taylor