Live Darts on Thursday October 25: European Championship 2018 Day One preview and order of play

Joe Cullen looks on (credit:Lawrence Lustig/PDC)

The 2018 European Championship kicks off in Dortmund on Thursday as the world’s top three headline a star-studded opening night.

The £400,000 major features the top 32 players from the European Order of Merit, which is comprised from the prize money earned solely from the 13 European Tour events held over the course of the year.

The darting hotbed of Dortmund hosts the event for the first time, with a bumper crowd expected across four days at the Westfalenhallen.

Reigning and four-time champion Michael van Gerwen looks to extend his unbeaten run in the competition to 21 matches by overcoming former Players Champion Paul Nicholson in Round One.

The Dutch sensation has dominated this event since 2014 and is one the hunt for a fifth title which would make the outright most successful player in European Championship history, ahead of Phil Taylor.

Van Gerwen, who roared back to winning ways at the World Grand Prix, has won his last eight encounters with Nicholson - who is making his first appearance in the event since 2013 after holding on to the 32nd and final qualifying spot.

Rob Cross, last year's runner-up in Hasselt, aims to kick-start another memorable run by dispatching Dutch debutant Danny Noppert.

Cross suffered a shock First Round exit at the recent Grand Prix and was also a First Round and Second Round casualty in the two Players Championship events last weekend.

The reigning World Champion is facing Noppert for the first time, with the former Lakeside finalist having won a ProTour event last month and reached two Euro Tour Semi-Finals in his debut season as a PDC Tour Card holder.

Peter Wright begins his quest to reach a first European Championship final when he comes up against the upwardly-mobile Jermaine Wattimena.

Wright, semi-finalist in 2015 and 2016, heads to Germany as the number nine seed and is looking to add to his dominant record over Wattimena, having won eight of their nine previous meetings.

Wattimena is making only his second appearance in this competition and will be out to avenge his Second Round defeat to 'Snakebite' in the World Grand Prix earlier this month.

Two of the sport's most fluent natural talents collide in what promises to be a quick-fire content as Joe Cullen takes on Jelle Klaasen.

Cullen has typically produced his best performances on the European circuit this season, qualifying as the fifth seed, and is looking to follow up his run to the Quarter-Finals of July's World Matchplay.

Klaasen, one of only five players in this year's line-up to have featured the inaugural European Championship a decade ago, has incredibly won nine of his ten previous encounters with Cullen.

Simon Whitlock, European Champion in 2012 and runner-up a year later, faces a tricky opener against a resurgent Steve Beaton.

Whitlock will be out to recapture his form after suffering a First Round exit at the Grand Prix and further subsequent early exits on the European Tour and ProTour.

Beaton, meanwhile, knocked Rob Cross out of the Grand Prix before coming through the qualifiers to reach the World Series Finals and reach the Semi-Finals of a Players Championship event in the same weekend.

Premier League finalist Michael Smith looks to quash Steve Lennon's hopes of causing an upset on his debut in Dortmund.

Smith's best run in this tournament saw him reach the Quarter-Finals a year ago and he has recently climbed back up to a career-high position of seventh on the Order of Merit.

Ireland's Lennon has also made huge strides in 2018, moving into the world's top 40 in only his second season, having reached the final of the Dutch Masters and made his debut in the World Matchplay and World Grand Prix.

Ian White, the number four seed, aims to hit the ground running by seeing off confident newcomer Richard North.

White pulled off a memorable triumph at last month's Dutch Championship but has never been beyond the Second Round stage of this event and has not reached a televised Quarter-Final for more than 18 months.

North left it late to book his debut in the European Championship and will be eyeing a change of fortunes after losing in the First Round of his three TV tournament campaigns so far this year.

The opening match of the tournament sees two vastly experienced marksmen collide as Mervyn King faces Steve West.

King, a European Championship semi-finalist in 2014, won a Players Championship event in June but has struggled for form since and will be determined to hit form this weekend.

West has three European Tour Semi-Finals to his name this season and reached the Quarter-Finals of the UK Open back in March but has won just one of his last four meetings with 'The King'.

The action gets underway from 7pm BST, with all matches to be contested over the best of 11 legs.

Unibet European Championship 2018 Schedule


All times BST (Local time one hour ahead)

Thursday October 25

First Round

7.15pm Steve West v Mervyn King
7.45pm Ian White v Richard North
8.15pm Simon Whitlock v Steve Beaton
8.45pm Michael Smith v Steve Lennon
9.15pm Joe Cullen v Jelle Klaasen
9.45pm Michael van Gerwen v Paul Nicholson
10.15pm Rob Cross v Danny Noppert
10.45pm Peter Wright v Jermaine Wattimena


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Live Darts on Thursday October 25: European Championship 2018 Day One preview and order of play

The 2018 European Championship kicks off in Dortmund on Thursday as the world’s top three headline a star-studded opening night.

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