2017 Unibet European Championship Preview

Michael van Gerwen - Unibet European Championship (Lawrence Lustig, PDC)

MICHAEL VAN GERWEN has declared himself fit to challenge for a fourth successive Unibet European Championship title after recovering from his ankle injury in time to compete in Belgium this weekend.

World Champion Van Gerwen was forced to withdraw from last weekend's German Darts Masters due to the effects of bursitis in his ankle.

The Dutch ace has been receiving treatment for the problem since returning home on Saturday, and will defend his European Championship crown this weekend at the Ethias Arena in Hasselt.

Van Gerwen has been installed as the 8/11 tournament favourite with sponsors Unibet as he aims to extend his winning run at the European Championship to a fourth successive year - matching Taylor's record from 2008-2011.

He faces an all-Dutch first round tie when he meets Jan Dekker in Thursday's opening night, and the number one seed said: "I'm looking forward to getting back playing and I hope I can win this title again.

"I've had a good rest since the weekend and had some treatment for my ankle and it's feeling a lot better now. I've been practising again and I'm feeling good, so I'm focused on the European Championship now.

"It's been special to win this title three years in a row and it would be a great achievement if I can make it four titles because only Phil Taylor has ever done that before."

Last weekend's German Darts Masters winner Peter Wright is the 4/1 second favourite as he bids to follow up his 11 tournament wins this year with another TV title.

The world number three plays Polish star Krzysztof Ratajski as the first round continues on Friday afternoon, and is in confident mood after reaching the semi-finals for the past two years in Hasselt.

"I can't wait," said Wright. "I hadn't been able to practise much before we went to Germany so that may be the trick, or using a brand new set of darts like I did last weekend.

"We'll see what happens in Belgium. I always dig deep and try not to give up in a game and I got lucky last weekend."

Last year's European Championship finalist Mensur Suljovic takes on Kim Huybrechts in one of the high-profile first round ties, while the Belgian's elder brother Ronny takes on Welshman Gerwyn Price.

2012 European Champion Simon Whitlock, who was also the 2013 runner-up, is in action against James Richardson, while number five seed Jelle Klaasen comes up against fellow former Lakeside Champion Christian Kist in another all-Dutch tie.

Australian ace Kyle Anderson takes on John Henderson - the Scot who reached his first TV semi-final at the World Grand Prix earlier in October - while Alan Norris faces Mervyn King and Ian White plays Darren Webster.

With the tournament featuring the leading 32 players from the European Tour Order of Merit after 12 events across the continent this year, the Gibraltar Darts Trophy winner Michael Smith will be the number three seed as plays against Nathan Aspinall on Friday.

Two European Championship debutants clash as number six seed Rob Cross - who has enjoyed a remarkable first year as a professional - plays German youngster Martin Schindler, while number seven seed Joe Cullen takes on Stephen Bunting.

Belgium's Dimitri Van den Bergh opens Friday's afternoon session against Welsh debutant Jonny Clayton, while another all-Dutch tie sees Benito van de Pas playing Vincent van der Voort.

New World Grand Prix champion Daryl Gurney takes on 2009 European Championship finalist Steve Beaton, and Dave Chisnall plays Spain's Cristo Reyes.

The Unibet European Championship will be held from October 26-29 at the Ethias Arena in Hasselt, Belgium, live on ITV4. For tickets, visit www.pdc-europe.tv.

Unibet European Championship
First Round
Thursday October 26 (8pm local time, 7pm UK time)
Gerwyn Price v Ronny Huybrechts
Alan Norris v Mervyn King
Ian White v Darren Webster
John Henderson v Kyle Anderson
Simon Whitlock (8) v James Richardson
Mensur Suljovic (4) v Kim Huybrechts
Michael van Gerwen (1) v Jan Dekker
Jelle Klaasen (5) v Christian Kist

Friday October 27
Afternoon Session (1.45pm local time, 12.45pm UK time)

Jonny Clayton v Dimitri Van den Bergh
Dave Chisnall v Cristo Reyes
Benito van de Pas v Vincent van der Voort
Daryl Gurney v Steve Beaton
Michael Smith (3) v Nathan Aspinall
Rob Cross (6) v Martin Schindler
Joe Cullen (7) v Stephen Bunting
Peter Wright (2) v Krzysztof Ratajski

Evening Session (8pm local time, 7pm UK time)
Second Round x4

Saturday October 28 (8pm local time, 7pm UK time)
Second Round x4

Sunday October 29
Afternoon Session (1.45pm local time, 12.45pm UK time)


Evening Session (8pm local time, 7pm UK time)

Unibet Outright Winner Odds
8/11 Michael van Gerwen
4/1 Peter Wright
14/1 Rob Cross
16/1 Mensur Suljovic, Daryl Gurney
25/1 Michael Smith
28/1 Dave Chisnall
40/1 Simon Whitlock
50/1 Kyle Anderson, Gerwyn Price,
66/1 Kim Huybrechts, Joe Cullen
80/1 Benito van de Pas, Jelle Klaasen, Darren Webster
100/1 Mervyn King, Alan Norris, Cristo Reyes, Ian White
150/1 Stephen Bunting, Jonny Clayton, Christian Kist, Krzysztof Ratajski, Dimitri Van den Bergh
200/1 Steve Beaton, John Henderson, Ronny Huybrechts, Martin Schindler, Vincent van der Voort
250/1 Jan Dekker
300/1 Nathan Aspinall, James Richardson

Match Odds
Thursday Evening

Gerwyn Price 7/20 v Ronny Huybrechts 11/5
Alan Norris 4/5 v Mervyn King 21/20
Ian White 17/20 v Darren Webster 19/20
John Henderson 17/10 v Kyle Anderson 12/25
Simon Whitlock 33/100 v James Richardson 12/5
Mensur Suljovic 13/25 v Kim Huybrechts 8/5
Michael van Gerwen 1/18 v Jan Dekker 8/1
Jelle Klaasen 1/2 v Christian Kist 8/5

Friday Afternoon
Jonny Clayton 8/11 v Dimitri Van den Bergh 11/10
Dave Chisnall 2/5 v Cristo Reyes 2/1
Benito van de Pas 4/6 v Vincent van der Voort 6/5
Daryl Gurney 33/100 v Steve Beaton 23/10
Michael Smith 33/100 v Nathan Aspinall 23/10
Rob Cross 3/10 v Martin Schindler 5/2
Joe Cullen 3/5 v Stephen Bunting 13/10
Peter Wright 11/50 v Krzysztof Ratajski 33/10

Odds courtesy www.unibet.co.uk and correct at time of writing. Subject to fluctuation.

First Round: Best of 11 legs
Second Round: Best of 19 legs
Quarter-Finals: Best of 19 legs
Semi-Finals: Best of 21 legs
Final: Best of 21 legs

Prize Fund
Winner: £100,000
Runner-Up: £40,000
Semi-Finalists: £20,000
Quarter-Finalists: £15,000
Second Round Losers: £10,000
First Round Losers: £5,000
Total: £400,000