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Belgian Open preview: Michael van Gerwen headlines Wieze shootout

Michael van Gerwen is the star attraction for the Belgian Open, but he will not enjoy as much support as usual, with local hero Dimitri Van den Bergh also in town.

The European Tour gatherings on the PDC circuit have provided a fascinating set of sub-plots to run in between the main events, with 48-player fields featuring some qualifiers from the host nations.

They run from February through October and have been a huge success – a chance for darts fans all over the continent to see their heroes up close and personal.

This weekend the Belgian Open takes place at the Oktoberhallen in Wieze, where 3,000 spectators will cram inside hoping to see 180s galore.

WhatBlaklader Belgian Open Darts
WhereOktoberhallen, Wieze, Belgium
WhenFrom 12:00, Friday 5th May 2023
How to watchPDCTV & DAZN

Dancing Dimitri has crowd on his side

Dimitri Van den Bergh is a popular character wherever he plays - he likes dancing around the stage and putting on a show - but he will get a particularly warm welcome in his homeland this weekend.

Belgium has two world-class darts players and Van den Bergh is the best of them.

The Antwerp-born 28-year-old, known as Dreammaker, won the World Matchplay in 2020 and this season he has gone deep at both the World Championship and the UK Open.

Van den Bergh charged to the semi-finals of the World Championship at Alexandra Palace in London over Christmas, setting up a January 2nd date with Van Gerwen, which he lost 6-0.

The same two players met in the semi-finals of the UK Open in Minehead in March, with Van Gerwen winning 11-6.

Kim Huybrechts is the other Belgian who will have high hopes of making an impact at the Oktoberhallen this weekend.

The 37-year-old, also born in Antwerp, has been a regular in the latter stages of premier PDC events over his long career.

Huybrechts was runner-up in the 2013 World Cup of Darts when partnering his brother Ronny for Belgium. They lost to Phil Taylor and Adrian Lewis (England) in the final.

Van den Bergh and Huybrechts met at the last-16 stage of the World Championship at the end of last year, with Van den Bergh cruising to a 4-0 victory.

The Oktoberhallen hordes will be hoping both men make waves over the next three days.

Mighty Mike may prefer to avoid Dimitri

Popularity has never been a problem for Van Gerwen - his breath-taking style of play and relentless brilliance make him box office stuff - but the more seasoned Belgian darts fans could be set to give him a hard time at the Oktoberhallen.

Van Gerwen and Van den Bergh had a bad-tempered meeting at Alexandra Palace in the World Championship, with the Dutchman appearing to enter the 'exclusion zone' behind the oche when his opponent was throwing.

Van den Bergh made it clear he was not happy with the situation, then Van Gerwen mocked his young rival for the objection.

The mid-match squabble at Ally Pally seemed to unsettle Van den Bergh much more than Van Gerwen, who went on to enjoy a 6-0 whitewash.

Van den Bergh would love to get some revenge in the Belgian Open should they meet at the Oktoberhallen – and the locals will cheer themselves hoarse in support of their compatriot.

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Punters should be siding with seeds

The Premier League Darts at Manchester's AO Arena on Thursday night means the likes of Van Gerwen and world champion Michael Smith will not arrive in Belgium until Friday. The big guns are not in action until Saturday.

The top 16 seeds in the Belgian Open enter at the second-round stage, which is a huge advantage.

There will be only 32 players left in the competition when Van Gerwen, Smith and others enter the fray - and they will be only five victories away from lifting the trophy.

After two sessions of first-round action on Friday (afternoon and evening), the second round takes place over two sessions on Saturday, then the third round is on Sunday afternoon, before the quarter-finals, semis and final in the evening.

Number one seed, Luke Humphries, does not have any Premier League distractions and is one to strongly consider by Belgian Open punters.

He made the semi-finals of the Grand Slam of Darts and the Players Championship Finals last year, before suffering a controversial Premier League snub.

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