We’re back in Germany as the PDC season rumbles on with the eighth leg of the European Tour.
The 2016 European Darts Trophy gets underway on 9 September at the RWE Arena in Mulheim.
Michael van Gerwen, of course, is favourite to win the tournament and is in fine form after clinching victory at the Perth Darts Masters last month.
Meanwhile, the absence of Phil Taylor means there is plenty of optimism in the lower half of the draw.
So who will win this tournament as we near the close of the European Tour? Let’s take a look at the contenders.
History backs unlikely winner in Mulheim
Can anyone name the 2014 and 2015 winner of the European Darts Trophy? You’d be forgiven if you couldn’t, because England’s Michael Smith does not immediately spring to mind.
Smith, 25, has never won a premier PDC event but his prowess on the European Tour is growing. Last year he successfully defended his European Darts Trophy title and added the International Darts Open to his list of wins. He was a quarter-finalist at the Masters and World Championships in 2016 and has a point to prove here.
Smith stunned Van Gerwen 6-2 in the 2015 European Darts Trophy final to ensure his name on the trophy was not a one-off. Indeed, he edged the Dutchman 6-5 in the 2014 final — much to Van Gerwen’s dismay. Neither man threw particularly well in 2014, with Smith averaging 94.4, but he proved clinical when required.
Recent form sways towards Van Gerwen
Smith and Van Gerwen could meet in the final in Mulheim after being placed in opposite sides of the draw. But should Van Gerwen reach the showpiece event on September 11 then form suggests he will win the trophy.
Van Gerwen has enjoyed an excellent European Tour this season. The 27-year-old won the first three tournaments on the Tour — in Venray, Munich and Gibraltar — and also claimed the European Darts Open in Dusseldorf at the end of July. He has twice beaten Scot Peter Wright in European finals this year and looks in fine fettle.
Indeed, Van Gerwen also recently won the Perth Darts Masters as he dispatched Dave Chisnall with ease 11-4. That was an important win for the Dutchman, who had to struggle past James Wade before defeating Wright in the semi-final.
Chisnall could meet Van Gerwen again at the semi-final stage if he gets past likely quarter-final opponent Kim Huybrechts. But for Wright and Wade this draw is a golden opportunity to reach a final as they are in the latter half.
Second seed Wright lost to Van Gerwen in the semi-final here in 2015 and suffered a shock 6-3 defeat to Englishman Dean Winstanley the year before. Meanwhile, Wade v Smith in a potential quarter-final showdown could be one of the biggest games of the tournament and well worth tuning in for.
Holland are guaranteed a Dutchman in the quarter-finals this year, with Van Gerwen, Benito van der Pas and Jelle Klaasen all in the top quarter of the draw.