Cross and Webster go head-to-head (credit:Lawrence Lustig/PDC)
The 2019 European Championship gets underway in Gottingen on Thursday with four former champions among a star-studded opening night line-up.
This year’s Unibet
European Championship features the top 32 players from the European Tour Order of Merit competing for a record £500,000 prize fund at the Lokhalle.
Only five different players have managed to get their hands on this prestigious trophy since the event began in 2008, four of which are in action this evening.
James Wade claimed the crown for the first time courtesy of an 11-8 victory over Simon Whitlock in last year’s final in Dortmund before going on to win the World Series Finals a week later.
Wade begins the defence of his title with a tricky clash against Welsh number two and fellow top 16 star Jonny Clayton – making only his third appearance in this competition.
Michael van Gerwen starts his quest for a fifth European Championship triumph and a third consecutive televised title with a tie against debutant Ross Smith.
Van Gerwen dominated this event from 2014-2017, embarking on a prolific unbeaten run that was eventually ended by Steve West in Round Two 12 months ago.
The world number one is in blistering form, having retained the World Grand Prix trophy and gone on to win the Champions League of Darts for the first time a week later.
Smith, meanwhile, secured the 32nd and final spot in the tournament and the world number 57 is facing MVG for only the fifth time since 2013 as he bids to pull off a major upset and claim a first head-to-head success.
Dave Chisnall looks to maintain the form which led him to the recent World Grand Prix final when he comes up against back-to-back World Youth Champion Dimitri van den Bergh.
Danish Open champion Chisnall is seeded number five, while Belgian ace Van den Bergh is out to surpass the First Round stage of this event for the first time at the second attempt.
BDO World Champion Glen Durrant, one of the most high-profile debutants in the field, has reached back-to-back major Semi-Finals and aims to continue his consistent form when he faces ‘Rapid’ Ricky Evans.
Durrant enjoyed stellar debut campaigns in both the World Matchplay and World Grand Prix and will be determined to go the extra step and reach his first major final as a PDC player this week.
Evans, runner-up in March’s German Championship, has won just one match in a televised tournament this year (UK Open) and faces an uphill task against the contrastingly methodical Teessider.
Two former winners of this title collide in one of the stand-out ties of the opening night as 2012 champion Simon Whitlock takes on 2013 winner Adrian Lewis.
Lewis defeated Whitlock in the final to clinch the title seven years ago, though both players have performed strongly in this competition down the years, reaching three finals apiece.
Lewis has lost in the opening round of all four of his televised tournament campaigns this season and continues to cling on to a place in the world’s top 16, while Whitlock has also struggled in ranked competition and has slipped to 14th in the Order of Merit.
World Matchplay champion Rob Cross aims to navigate his way through a tricky opener against world number 18 Darren Webster in another intruiging contest.
Cross reached the final of this event on his debut two years ago, a run which was arguably the catalyst for his astonishing rise to prominence, and will be keen to stamp his authority against an opponent who has struggled to produced his best form amid injury setbacks this season.
Northern Ireland faces Republic of Ireland as Players Champion Daryl Gurney takes on World Cup of Darts finalist William O’Connor.
Gurney, who is sporting a new look after shaving his hair to raise money for charity during last week’s Champions League, looks to make it six wins from eight against the 33-year-old who won a Players Championship event earlier this year.
European Matchplay winner Joe Cullen, the number eight seed, starts out against 2014 semi-finalist Mervyn King – who has produced his best form on the sport’s biggest stages this season – reaching the Quarter-Finals of both the World Matchplay and World Grand Prix.
The action gets underway from 6pm BST, with First Round matches to be contested over the best of 11 legs.
European Darts Championship 2019 Match Schedule
All times BST (Local time one hour ahead)
Thursday October 24
6.15pm Joe Cullen v Mervyn King
6.45pm Dave Chisnall v Dimitri Van den Bergh
7.15pm Glen Durrant v Ricky Evans
7.45pm Adrian Lewis v Simon Whitlock
8.15pm Rob Cross v Darren Webster
8.45pm James Wade v Jonny Clayton
9.15pm Michael van Gerwen v Ross Smith
9.45pm Daryl Gurney v William O’Connor