Steady Suljovic is one to keep on your side
Injury issues may make MvG vulnerable
ITV4, 7.30pm Thursday
Michael van Gerwen has limped into the Low Countries as favourite for the European Championship but worries over the state of his health are grounds for swerving the world number one in the Belgian town of Hasselt.
Just six days ago Van Gerwen pulled out of the German Masters with an ankle injury which has troubled him before.
He’s adamant that he is fit to defend his title over the next few days but an intense playing schedule will test out his injury.
A couple of firms are offering evens about Mighty Mike which is generous enough in a competition missing Phil Taylor, Gary Anderson and Raymond van Barneveld and given that he has a pretty decent-looking draw into the last eight.
But he is worth opposing and prolific winner Peter Wright looks the clear danger. Snakebite dotted up in Germany in Van Gerwen’s absence, beating Mensur Suljovic, Barney and Taylor to take first prize. It was his 11th tournament win of the year.
That said, he is 9-2 in a field full of players who have won tournaments this year and who are getting less fazed by the pressures of TV and the big stage.
Suljovic has to be on any shortlist even though he has a pig of a first-round draw against home hopeful Kim Huybrechts. The pressure of performing in front of a Belgian audience might get to the Hurricane, but Suljovic will take it all in his stride and is in the form of his life.
From the opposite half, Rob Cross just about pips everyone for most improved player of the year and, having had a couple of strong runs on TV to show he can cut it at the top level, this could conceivably be his major breakthrough event.
There are eight first-round ties on day one, the matches are best-of-11 and Jelle Klaasen looks a top bet giving 1.5 legs against fellow Dutchman Christian Kist.
Kist has hardly won a match this autumn and if Klaasen gets in front the Premier League performer can get this game finished quickly.
1pt each-way 18-1 bet365
1pt each-way 16-1 bet365, Sky Bet
J Klaasen -1.5 legs v C Kist
2pts 4-5 general
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