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European Darts Grand Prix: Preview

Michael van Gerwen remains top dog in the European Tour rankings as the PDC elite head to Stuttgart for event seven on the schedule, the European Darts Grand Prix.

There has been a change of venue for the European Darts Grand Prix, which was staged in Sindelfingen when Jose de Sousa won the last running of it two years ago.

This time around the 48-man field is gathering at the Hanns-Martin-Schleyer-Halle in Stuttgart where Gerwyn Price will be the top seed, but Michael van Gerwen - the runaway leader of the European Tour Order of Merit - is very much the man to beat.

Van Gerwen, winner of two of the previous six ET tournaments this season, is £33,000 clear of the pack in the race to nail down a place in the top 32 for the right to toe the oche at the season-ending European Championship in Dortmund in October.

Cool Hand's class showing at last

Six Premier League stars are scheduled to be heading for Germany this weekend - James Wade and Gary Anderson are the two non-participants - with Price, world champion Peter Wright and Premier League high-flier Jonny Clayton likely to have their backers.

Yet it's the new kid on the block, Luke Humphries, who is making the biggest stir in mainland Europe this year as he finally starts to realise his enormous potential.

A three-time world quarter-finalist, 'Cool Hand' is a three-time winner on tour in 2022, including twice on the European Tour, most recently last weekend in Prague at the Czech Open.

For the second time this year he beat Van Gerwen en route to glory, as well as several other stars - he's throwing like a dream and, critically, he now mentally believes that he belongs in the world's elite.

No way Jose?

Humphries, now ranked two behind Van Gerwen in the European Tour rankings, wasn't the only player who had a ball in Prague last weekend.

Jose de Sousa, the Special One, hadn't been looking special for a long while, so it was great to see the Portuguese Man-o-Scores powering his way through a field once again.

De Sousa averaged around 98 in the four matches he played reaching the semis where he succumbed to Humphries in a high-scorer.

De Sousa is a player who thrives when he's confident and last week's efforts in Prague, coupled with the fact that he's the defending champion this weekend (albeit in a different venue) should be the shot in the arm he craves.

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Favourite backers wary of more mayhem

Favourite backers took an absolute pounding when the 16 seeds made their entries in round two of the Czech Open last Saturday.

An incredible nine of the 16 seeds crashed at their first hurdle, including Price in a bad-tempered loss to Adrian Lewis, while fellow Premier League big-hitters Michael Smith, Joe Cullen and Clayton were all eliminated.

And once again this week there is a stack of world-class chuckers entering in round one, including Lewis, Stephen Bunting, Callan Rydz and Danny Noppert, plus home heroes Gabriel Clemens and Martin Schindler.

All are capable of toppling the top guns because they've done it before.

Noppert reached the final of the Austrian Open in May, English journeyman Martin Lukeman did likewise a couple of weeks earlier at the German Grand Prix, while Vincent van der Voort was a surprise semi-finalist in Prague last weekend.

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