The 2020 Unibet European Championship begins in Oberhausen, Germany on Thursday with 32 of the world's top stars in action.

The top 32 players on the 2020 European Tour Order of Merit will compete for £500,000 across four days from October 29-November 1 at the König Pilsener Arena in the latest PDC event being staged with fans.

Thursday's bumper opening day of action will see all 16 first round ties played, as reigning champion Rob Cross begins his title defence against Dutch debutant Martijn Kleermaker.

"To win this tournament last year was a fantastic achievement," said Cross. "I'd won the World Matchplay a couple of months before so I was riding that high.

"Things haven't really gone to plan for me this year so far but we're getting to the point where there's tournaments coming thick and fast.

"I hope I can perform well this weekend in front of the amazing German fans and I can use it as a platform to build on and hopefully get back to my best."

Cross defeated Gerwyn Price in last year's final, with the Welshman hoping to go one better this time around after claiming two televised titles in the past five weeks.

Now up to second in the world, Price is among the outright tournament favourites with Unibet ahead of his round one meeting with 2012 European Championship semi-finalist Kim Huybrechts.

"Last year it was really disappointing to lose the final the way I did," Price conceded.

"For whatever reason I just couldn't get anything going but that disappointment will drive me on to do even better this year.

"My confidence is high at the moment, I feel like I'm in a good position to win some more TV titles and build my form up ahead of the World Championship."

Michael van Gerwen is the joint-most successful player in the tournament's history along with Phil Taylor, having picked up the title four times.

However, the most recent successes came as he landed a fourth straight title in 2017, a record the Dutchman is keen to put right as he tries to recapture his best form.

"I love this tournament because it is the climax of the European Tour," said Van Gerwen, the 3/1 tournament favourite with Unibet who will meet Darius Labanauskas in his opener.

"Normally we play a lot more than four European Tours and I have been successful on them so I feel this is a tournament I have a good chance of success in.

"This year things have been a bit different only playing four European Tours but I'm still high in the seedings.

"I feel good, I'm feeling confident that I will perform and I can get back to winning trophies again."

Joe Cullen is the number one seed having won last weekend's International Darts Open to top the 2020 European Tour Order of Merit.

Cullen will take on William O'Connor, while fellow 2020 European Tour event winners Jose De Sousa and Devon Petersen will play Jeffrey de Zwaan and Andy Hamilton respectively.

World Champion Peter Wright faces German number two Gabriel Clemens and 2016 runner-up Mensur Suljovic will meet two-time semi-finalist Daryl Gurney.

Thursday's winners will return to the stage on Friday as the second round takes place across two sessions.

Saturday will see the quarter-finals played in the evening, before the semi-finals and final take place on Sunday night.

The European Championship will be broadcast on ITV4 in the UK, through the PDC's international broadcast partners including RTL7 and DAZN, through PDCTV for Rest of the World Subscribers and via matchroom.live.

Tickets for the Unibet European Championship are available through PDC Europe.

2020 Unibet European Championship
October 29-November 1, König Pilsener Arena, Oberhausen
Schedule of Play
Thursday October 29 (1600 CET)
16x First Round

Jamie Hughes v Dave Chisnall
Krzysztof Ratajski v Steve West
Mervyn King v Ian White
Jose De Sousa v Jeffrey de Zwaan
James Wade v Steve Lennon
Devon Petersen v Andy Hamilton
Michael Smith v Ross Smith
Danny Noppert v Dirk van Duijvenbode
Nathan Aspinall v Maik Kuivenhoven
Joe Cullen v William O'Connor
Rob Cross v Martijn Kleermaker
Jonny Clayton v Max Hopp
Michael van Gerwen v Darius Labanauskas
Gerwyn Price v Kim Huybrechts
Peter Wright v Gabriel Clemens
Mensur Suljovic v Daryl Gurney
 
Friday October 30
Afternoon Session (1300 CET)
4x Second Round
 
Evening Session (2000 CET)
4x Second Round
 
Saturday October 31 (2000 CET)
Quarter-Finals
 
Sunday November 1 (2000 CET)
Semi-Finals & Final
 

The PDC reserves the right to change the schedule of play. Should any player withdraw, PDC Rule 3.7 would apply, and a replacement player would be found from the European Tour Order of Merit.

The schedule for the second round onwards will be confirmed at the conclusion of the previous day’s play.

Prize Fund  
Winner - £120,000
Runner-up - £60,000
Semi-Finalists - £32,000
Quarter-Finalists - £20,000
Last 16 - £10,000
Last 32 - £6,000
Total - £500,000