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World Matchplay Darts: Can Barney bounce back?

As the much-awaited 2015 World Matchplay Darts draws closer, there is one big-name player in particular who needs to impress on the oche in Blackpool.

Dutch darting legend Raymond van Barneveld has been far from his usual imperious self recently, as inconsistencies in the Hague-born cult hero’s game have lead to disappointing exits in the World Cup of Darts and, more recently, the Japan Masters.

Barney is currently being offered at a fantastic price of 40/1 with Coral to clinch this tournament, an outsider despite his undisputed darting pedigree, which could prove to be a quality punt for customers. As a former Premier League winner and a five-time world champion, the veteran may be a wildcard worth backing, and certainly has it in his locker to pull off a shock.

On top form and brimming with confidence, there are few better than Van Barneveld, backed by his raucous Barney Army, but the Survivor-inspired Dutchman has lacked his characteristic tigerish swagger of late.

Watch Barney hit a heroic nine-darter at the 2010 World Matchplay:

This competition could have come at the perfect time for the 48-year old to reassert his dominance on the darting world then, but critics would argue this dog had his day. Is Barney being unwisely dismissed in a darts landscape that can change so quickly?

Ask his peer Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor, who sensationally recovered from his first-ever failure to qualify for the Premier League play-offs by leading England to World Cup of Darts glory, followed by a superb solo effort to claim the Japan Darts Masters crown. The knives had been out to prematurely predict his demise, but The Power proved everyone wrong and, as the saying goes: “form is temporary, class is permanent.”

Van Barneveld has also shown he has a similar spirit, after fighting back from a poor first half of the 2015 Premier League Darts campaign to run younger compatriot Michael van Gerwen close in the semi-finals at the O2. Having twice racked up the most maximums and highest checkouts during that season, it would be dangerous to write off this Dutchman, who knows what it takes to win.

As it happens, Barney will have to find a way past familiar foe Taylor, who dispatched him in Japan, should he make it to the second round, where he is perhaps unfairly odds-on at 4/6 to be eliminated.

Van Barneveld celebration

On current form, Van Barneveld is certainly inferior to The Power, but punters should not forget that it was not so long ago he did the Premier League double over his rival, with consecutive 7-4 and 7-2 triumphs over the Englishman.

Previously in the World Matchplay, Barney has not had it all his own way against his rival, however, having been defeated by specialist Taylor in the 2010 final. Van Barneveld is available to back at a tempting 12/1 to reach that stage again, and lift this trophy for the first time, though.

Before he can think about the second round, first up for the Netherlands superstar is Andy Hamilton, whose best finishes in Blackpool have been two semi-finals in 2006 and 2011 respectively. Odds-on at 2/9 to triumph in his opening game, Barney has a chance to get a good result here against The Hammer, who has never claimed a major PDC title, and give himself a solid base to build upon.

Should Van Barneveld wobble or get off to a slow start, Hamilton may well smell blood, but is still an underdog at 10/3 to take the spoils.