The European Tour season concludes in the darting world this weekend when the 32 players who topped the order of merit in the qualifying events head to Dortmund for the European Championship, a potential big money reward for those in action.
Ross Smith took full advantage of the opportunity he created for himself a year ago and he has qualified for the event this time around too and will look to make a successful defence in a field full of quality.
2022 – Ross Smith
2021 – Rob Cross
2020 – Peter Wright
2019 – Rob Cross
2018 – James Wade
2017 – Michael van Gerwen
2016 – Michael van Gerwen
2015 – Michael van Gerwen
2014 – Michael van Gerwen
2013 – Adrian Lewis
The four day tournament sees the action coming thick and fast with the first round played across the opening two nights of action on Thursday and Friday evening. They are over the best of 11 legs before we move into the second round across the best of 19 legs on Saturday afternoon and evening. The quarter finals are also the best of 19 on Sunday afternoon before the two semi-finals and the final is played out in a big Sunday evening session with all three matches being the best of 21 legs. The tournament can be watched in full on ITV4.
With the draw bracket being determined by the European Tour order of merit this weekend we have Dave Chisnall as the number one seed and he is right at the top of the top half of the draw. If everything goes to the seeding this weekend then Chisnall will meet Gerwyn Price in the semi-final but plenty of other players will be looking to stop that from happening. The other top 16 players on the list in this half of the draw are Rob Cross, Peter Wright, the world champion Michael Smith, Danny Noppert, World Matchplay winner Nathan Aspinall and Martin Schindler.
The lower ranked players in this half of the draw are decent enough as well with Stephen Bunting the highest of those. We have a TV tournament winner in this half of the draw in Chris Dobey, who was the last man into the field. The Dutch legend Raymond van Barneveld is in this half as well as are Gabriel Clemens, Keane Barry, Ryan Searle, Dimitri Van den Bergh and a second TV event winner in the form of UK Open champion Andrew Gilding.
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The World Grand Prix champion Luke Humphries came in second in the order of merit and he will be the leading seed in the bottom half of the draw this week. He is slated to meet Michael van Gerwen in the semi-final should all go with the numbers but the likes of Damon Heta, Josh Rock, Ricardo Pietreczko, Jonny Clayton, Dirk van Duijvenbode and Krzysztof Ratajski so this does look to be a weaker half of the draw in terms of the seeds.
The defending champion Ross Smith is going to look to defend the title from the bottom half of the draw while the exciting youngster Gian van Veen is also here too. There is a bit of a Northern Ireland feel to this half with both Brendan Dolan and Daryl Gurney among the lower seeds in this section. Jose de Sousa, James Wade and Joe Cullen will all look to have a big weekend in what looks the weaker half of the draw. Madars Razma completes the field.
I’ll go with a couple of outright bets this weekend. I wasn’t going to take anyone in the top half of the draw because it looks like a bit of a minefield but I want to have Peter Wright onside for the next few weeks so even though he is in the tougher half of the draw I want to have some of the 25/1. I mentioned during the World Grand Prix and the last European Tour event that there are signs that Wright is coming back to his better form. He made the final of that European Tour tournament after wins over the likes of Chris Dobey and Luke Humphries and then last week made the quarter final of a Players Championship event. At the World Grand Prix he looked much better and could well be the champion of that now had he not missed three darts at a double to take out the eventual winner Luke Humphries in the quarter final. Wright is looking good again though and with confidence returning he could be a big player even in a tough half here.
The player I like in the bottom half of the draw is the man Wright would have faced in the semi-final of the World Grand Prix had he taken care of Humphries in that quarter final. That is Joe Cullen who showed at the Grand Prix that he is still a solid performer in the big tournaments. Cullen hasn’t won a tournament this season but he has lost in seven semi-finals including at the World Grand Prix and the World Matchplay so he isn’t far away from a real big run. A lot of the time he has lost to the elite players but there is only really Luke Humphries and Michael van Gerwen from that band in his half of the draw this week so this feels like a good chance for Cullen, who has an ITV tournament win under his belt, to double his tally here.
Back P.Wright to win European Championship (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 26.00 with BetVictor (1/2 1-2)
Back J.Cullen to win European Championship (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 41.00 with William Hill (1/2 1-2)
Back him here: