Preview European Championship
MICHAEL VAN GERWEN will be hoping to land a fifth successive Unibet European Championship title, with Dortmund's Westfalenhalle hosting the top 32 stars of the European Tour - live on ITV4.
This year's European Championship will be held from October 25-28 as the tournament returns to Germany, with the leading 32 players from the European Tour Order of Merit bidding for the 100,000 pound top prize.
The 400,000 pound event is a culmination of the year's 13 European Tour events, which provides the 32 qualifiers for the European Championship based on the final Order of Merit.
Top seed Michael van Gerwen, the reigning European Champion, headlines the opening night on Thursday October 25 against Paul Nicholson as he begins his quest for a fifth successive title.
Van Gerwen first claimed glory in Europe in 2014 and went on to repeat the feat at the following three stagings of the tournament, posting incredible final-winning averages of 107, 108 and 111, and the world number one is feeling confident of making it five European crowns in a row.
"To win this tournament five years in a row would be incredible and it is something that I am really determined to do," said Van Gerwen, who won eight European Tour events in 2018.
"Nobody ever did that before so it would be something really special to me and it adds a little bit of extra motivation but of course I can only stay focused for one game at a time.
"I'm looking forward to the game against Paul Nicholson. He is someone I know well and he has being doing well again this year which is great to see - you have to perform to qualify for this tournament.
"But I think I will have too much for him if I am anywhere near my best. If I play like I can I will have too much for anybody.
"The European Championship is like the finals for the whole European Tour and I have been very dominant on that so I want to make sure it is my name on the trophy at end of it."
Former Players Championship Finals winner Nicholson is relishing his chance to face Van Gerwen as he returns to the tournament for the first time in five years.
His reward, though, is a tie against top seed Michael van Gerwen, the reigning European Champion and a winner of eight of the 13 European Tour events held during 2018.
Although Van Gerwen is a huge favourite going into that tie, and an odds-on favourite to claim the title, June's Gibraltar Darts Trophy semi-finalist Nicholson insists he is excited about the chance to lock horns with the sport's top star in Dortmund.
"Every time I get into the big tournaments it feels like Michael is waiting for me in the first round, but it's a great opportunity," said Nicholson.
"There's no pressure on me. I've got preparation time - ten days to get myself right and I'm really looking forward to the prospect of playing against Michael, especially when he's in this form. I really can't wait."
Thursday's opening night also features World Champion Rob Cross up against Danny Noppert, world number two Peter Wright taking on Jermaine Wattimena and former winner Simon Whitlock against Steve Beaton.
Friday afternoon sees the first round conclude with the eight ties from the bottom half of the draw, which includes the tasty match-up between Dave Chisnall and Adrian Lewis.
German duo Max Hopp and Martin Schindler play William O'Connor and James Wade respectively, while former European Championship finalist Mensur Suljovic takes on Cristo Reyes.
The second round begins on Friday night as the winners of Thursday's matches return to the stage, with Saturday's evening session concluding the quarter-final line-up.
The Unibet European Championship then concludes on Sunday October 28, with the quarter-finals in the afternoon session followed by the semi-finals and final in the evening session.