Darts: All eyes on Milton Keynes for the 2021 Ladbrokes UK Open
(Photo: Dean Mouhatoropoulos/ Getty Images)

Raymond van Barneveld makes his big-stage return to professional darts, as the Ladbrokes UK Open commences this Friday.

Four rounds will be played on the opening day at the Marshall Arena, with the first three already drawn and six players receiving byes to the second stage.

Players will be competing for a mouth-watering £100,000 winner's pay-out in Sunday's final, a thick slice of the £450,000 total prize pot for the last 96 in the event.

Van Barneveld will take on Scotland's Alan Soutar in the second round of the competition on the back of a first ranking title in over seven long years for the Dutchman.

Barney, who scraped through Qualifying School to earn back his Tour Card after retiring 14 months prior, marked his official darting comeback with a brilliant 8-6 win over Joe Cullen in the third Players Championship final in Bolton, where he famously lifted his first ever PDC ranking title - the 2006 UK Open.

World Youth Champion Bradley Brooks will take on Martin Atkins, whilst 20-year-old John Brown joins father Steve Brown by making his competition debut against Gavin Carlin.

Meanwhile, the top 32 - including reigning champion Michael van Gerwen and newly-crowned World Champion and top seed Gerwyn Price - will enter at the fourth round stage on Friday evening.

  • Can we expect more fireworks?

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Last year's final between van Gerwen and Price went down to the wire; Mighty Mike eventually came out on top to claim his third UK Open title and his first tournament win of the calendar year.

Iceman Price was 5-1 up in the final, but his Dutch opponent - who had fired in a nine-darter in his semi-final win over Daryl Gurney - capitalised on some below-par finishing to lead 8-7 and eventually claim the six-figure prize.

Should this year's tournament be anything similar to 12 months ago, we will be in for a treat.

  • Déjà vu for Barney

Fifteen years ago, van Barneveld claimed his first ever televised PDC title in the 2006 UK Open.

Now returning for his first TV stage appearance since his retirement from the sport in 2019, Barney is faced with a mild case of déjà vu as he looks to win big in the very tournament where his PDC journey began.

His success at the European Qualifying School earlier this year seemed far from convincing, but then he suddenly appeared back to his best with an impressive Players Championship win over an in-form Cullen.

The five-time World Champion will be expected to carry the same standard into Friday's second round tie, but will he carry it all the way to glory once more?