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European Championship Preview: Can Cool Hand cope with top billing?

Luke Humphries is the top seed and Rob Cross the defending champion as 32 qualifiers head to Dortmund for the European Championship finals at the Westfalenhallen in Dortmund.

Humphries secured the No.1 ranking and a place at the top of the draw sheet after winning four of the 13 qualifying events across mainland Europe which formed the order of merit.

That's earned Cool Hand a 14/1 quote for what would be a major maiden title, while Cross, who beat Michael van Gerwen 11-8 in last year's final, is a 20/1 chance.

Van Gerwen is 5/1 to lift a trophy he has already raised above his head four times, though not since 2017.

WhatEuropean Championship
WhereWestfalenhallen, Dortmund
WhenThursday 27th October - Sunday 30th October 2022
How to watchITV4 & bet365 Sports Live Streaming
OddsMichael van Gerwen 5/1, Gerwyn Price 7/1, Peter Wright 7/1, Michael Smith 11/1, Jonny Clayton 12/1

Price and Wright set for round two shoot-out

There were 13 European Tour events which acted as qualifiers for the European Championship with Humphries winning four of them, Van Gerwen three.

It was dominant stuff from that duo to cement the top two spots in the seedings and, because the draw is based only on performances in ET tournaments, it has thrown up a fascinating draw bracket.

World No.1 Peter Wright and the man he deposed Gerwyn Price, for example, are seeded three and 14 respectively and therefore slated to meet in round two.

They are also in the same quarter of the draw as Joe Cullen and Dimitri van den Bergh and same half of the draw as Mighty Mike and Jonny Clayton.

Top half of the draw has open look

It means the top half of the draw, while packed with top stars, is more likely to throw up an unfamiliar finalist.

Humphries is the man with the target on his back though of course the 14/1 shot has yet to taste major glory, unlike, for example, former world champion Rob Cross and multiple major winner James Wade.

Those two have also performed well in the Euros, Cross a three-time finalist and two-time winner, Wade a two-time finalist with his win coming in 2018, and they meet in round one.

Other big names in the top half include serial major finalist Michael Smith, former UK Open winner Nathan Aspinall and in-form Dutchmen Danny Noppert and Dirk van Duijvenbode.

Perhaps the most interesting price in that half is the 16/1 against Josh Rock, the 21-year-old from Northern Ireland who is playing on the full PDC Tour for the first time and is enjoying a year to remember.

Rock has won five times on the Development Tour (for which he is also eligible) and then last weekend enjoyed runs to two Players Championship finals in Barnsley, losing to Dave Chisnall in the first, before beating Humphries in the second.

He couldn't have a tougher first-round draw, however, finding himself toeing the oche opposite recent Grand Prix runner-up Aspinall.

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Brace yourself for best-of-11 shocks

First round ties at the European Championship are best-of-11 leg affairs with plenty of scope for a surprise or two.

Martin Lukeman, for example, has had a year to remember and looks more than capable of landing 13/8 odds against Ryan Searle, who is some way from the formidable thrower he was this time last year.

Aspinall versus Rock ought to be close and is priced accordingly, though the Asp's big-stage experience may well give him an edge over the youngster for whom this is pretty new territory.

Ross Smith is also playing well enough to see off Joe Cullen - Smith's a 6/5 poke.

Punters will have their own ideas of an outright winner and this is a field packed with players in top form, given the seedings are based on summer results rather than a two-year rolling order of merit.

Cross, with a Players Championship win last week, would surely be on any shortlist, while Damon Heta - 20/1 - was a three-time semi-finalist in Barnsley over the weekend, going on to take one title.

The bottom half looks packed with quality, but there is hope for the likes of Ross Smith (100/1) and Dave Chisnall (25/1), neither of whom you would write off with any degree of authority.

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