Michael van Gerwen will begin the defence of his Unibet European Championship title against a rejuvenated Simon Whitlock, whilst James Wade will take on world champion Gary Anderson in the pick of the first-round clashes when the tournament begins at the Ethias Arena, Hasselt, on October 28th.
Van Gerwen has won the European Championship title for the last two years, winning last year’s event in a thrilling last-leg decider against Gary Anderson. MvG is the number one seed in this year’s remodelled event in Belgium, where the field is based solely on performances across the ten PDC European Tour events held in 2016.
‘The Green Machine’ is the number one seed for this year’s event having won six of the ten European Tour events hosted this year. However, he faces a tough test in the shape of 2012 European Championship winner Simon Whitlock, who defeated Van Gerwen en route to winning Players Championship 18 in Dublin last month.
Eight-time major winner James Wade has drawn world champion Gary Anderson in an enthralling first-round tie. ‘The Machine’ is seeded fourth for this year’s event having won the European Darts Matchplay in July, but he’s had the misfortune of drawing the Scot- who has participated sporadically on the European Tour this year.
Phil Taylor has been pitted against Alan Norris, who is seeded seventh following his triumph at the German Darts Championship on Sunday. Taylor, a four-time European Champion, claimed victory in his solitary European Tour appearance at the Austrian Darts Open, but will face a tough test against an in-form ‘Chuck’.
Darts-control’s Mensur Suljovic is seeded second in Hasselt after winning the International Darts Open, and he’ll face quick-fire Dutchman Jermaine Wattimena in a repeat of their first-round clash at last year’s World Championships.
Third seed Peter Wright will face former major semi-finalist Justin Pipe, who has enjoyed a welcome return to form over recent weeks. Kim Huybrechts’ return to home soil will be marked with a difficult assignment against James Wilson, whilst three-time major finalist Dave Chisnall, seeded sixth, faces Australian ace Kyle Anderson.
Jelle Klaasen, who lost out to Alan Norris in the final of the German Darts Championship, will be seeded eighth in Hasselt. ‘The Cobra’ faces Steve West, who has enjoyed an incredible run of results over the last month which has seen him break into the world’s top 50.
Elsewhere, former World Grand Prix champion Robert Thornton takes on Spanish star Cristo Reyes, whilst 2014 European Championship finalist Terry Jenkins takes on Ian White, who has netted three Pro Tour victories this year.
World number ten Michael Smith will lock horns with his St Helen’s compatriot Stephen Bunting, whilst Daryl Gurney continues his impressive return from a hand-injury with a tie against Welsh number one Gerwyn Price.
World Youth champion Max Hopp meets Dutchman Benito van de Pas, who has recently broken into the world’s top 16, whilst the veteran Mervyn King will clash with the charismatic South African Devon Petersen.
Chris Dobey and Joe Cullen will contest a battle of the young-guns, whilst Jamie Caven, who secured the final qualification spot, takes on European Championship debutant James Richardson.
Nevertheless, there will be a number of big-name absentees in Hasselt. Former winner and world number three Adrian Lewis missed out on qualification, as did five-time world champion Raymond van Barneveld, who reached the semi-finals on his solitary European Tour appearance this year.
The full draw and tournament bracket can be viewed below, and the schedule of play will be announced in due course.
2016 Unibet European Championship
Michael van Gerwen (1) v Simon Whitlock
Daryl Gurney v Gerwyn Price
Jelle Klaasen (8) v Steve West
Michael Smith v Stephen Bunting
Kim Huybrechts (5) v James Wilson
Mervyn King v Devon Petersen
James Wade (4) v Gary Anderson
Max Hopp v Benito van de Pas
Mensur Suljovic (2) v Jermaine Wattimena
Ian White v Terry Jenkins
Alan Norris (7) v Phil Taylor
Chris Dobey v Joe Cullen
Dave Chisnall (6) v Kyle Anderson
Jamie Caven v James Richardson
Peter Wright (3) v Justin Pipe
Cristo Reyes v Robert Thornton
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC