A rejuvenated Raymond van Barneveld against fast-improving Phil Taylor has the makings of an explosive semi-final in the Ladbrokes Darts World Championship.
That’s the verdict of darts journalist Dan Dawson ahead of Sunday’s fascinating tie, a view echoed by so many sports fans who have been watching the action unfold at Ally Pally over the past few weeks.
Van Barneveld and Taylor clinically defeated Simon Whitlock and Andy Hamilton respectively on Friday night to reach the last four. Taylor is 8/15 to progress, with Van Barneveld priced at 6/4.
Hopes are high that the duo will now produce a game to savour as Van Barneveld has rediscovered his form of old and Taylor is challenging for a 16th world title.
Talking to Ladbrokes, Dawson said: “We’ve hyped a lot of games at this tournament and some of them have failed to live up to that hype.
“Some of the games that have been really great are the ones that kind of snuck up on us really. I don’t see how this game will fail to deliver in some way.”
Van Barneveld has not beaten Taylor since 2009, but his dominant displays against Whitlock and Gary Anderson on consecutive nights served as a warning that the Dutchman is back to his best after a dramatic fortunes.
Dawson enthused: “The great thing about Barney is that it’s like a human interest thing. It’s not just about a bloke going out and chucking great darts. It’s about him rediscovering some kind of magic within himself that was lost.
“It just needed something to click into gear and it did at the Grand Slam for him and that’s changed things around.
“Beating Whitlock in the manner that he did was impressive. He just kept going and you could see how much it meant to him when he burst into tears at the end.
“The only thing that I’d be worried about is if we do get a game like the final that these two played out in 2007, has he been playing well enough, for long enough to dig deep enough and win a sudden-death leg against Phil Taylor?
“There’s been a lot of talk this year surrounding Adrian Lewis about how he knows how to find those extra gears when he needs them. It has kind of been overlooked that Phil Taylor knows that’s what it’s all about and he has done it loads of times.
“He’s not been Taylor-esque in smashing everybody up with 100-plus averages every single game, but he’s done enough in his games so far and he’s getting better as he’s going along. His finishing is incredible and we’ve seen that wins you games.”
While Dawson thinks Van Barneveld will test Taylor, he fully expects the world number one to advance.
He added: “The only advice I would ever give anybody about betting on darts is if you don’t bet against Phil Taylor, you haven’t lost a lot of money in the last 20 years.
“Never bet against Phil Taylor. I think it could be close. Taylor loves beating people up. I don’t think Barney is going to let him do that – he’s let it happen too many times. And this is a different Barney. This is the Barney of old. I don’t think this is a false dawn.
“Phil Taylor is darts. This is his house. This is where basically he lives. And he lives in Andy Hamilton’s head. Andy Hamilton had a tiny little Phil Taylor sat on his shoulder all the way during the build up to their quarter-final match. And Andy missed those darts in the first couple of sets in that game and that was the end of that.
“As confident as Barney is, there’s still a little Phil Taylor sat on his shoulder there somewhere and at some point I think he may come out. And if he starts whispering in his ear in the middle of that game, Phil Taylor will win.”
Please Note: All Odds and Markets are correct at the time of publishing