European Championship 2020 preview and schedule: Saturday 31 October, including Wright, Petersen and Van Duijvenbode
The Halloween instalment of the European Championship should be scarily good.
On Friday, the big names were culled so brutally that Michael Myers would've been impressed, if he wasn't hiding under your bed. Michael van Gerwen and Gerwyn Price were the biggest scalps on a fright night for top seeds. Now we have an unholy mix of talented all-sorts. There are two major champions, and six who haven't won a TV title yet. Two 2020 European Tour event finalists, and six who didn't get that far. There's even one man who didn't even qualify, technically.
That man is William O'Connor, who gets the party started on Saturday evening. Like Simon Whitlock and Jeffrey de Zwaan at the World Grand Prix, the Magpie was granted a spot as a reliever thanks to a COVID-induced dropout. And just like that pair, he's found his way to the last eight.
O'Connor will take on the man who saw off compatriot Steve Lennon. James Wade levelled his 2020 European head-to-head against Nathan Aspinall with the biggest win of the four the pair have shared between them. It was a tight tie, but Wade looked the better player, and will be a much bigger challenge for the 32nd seed than an off-kilter Jamie Hughes.
It was going to take something good to stop Jose de Sousa in his track; Jonny Clayton certainly had the right stuff. The last time De Sousa led in the match was in leg three, which was testament to Clayton's assured control of the tie. After getting his lucky break in surviving match darts against Max Hopp, the Welshman appears poised to have a serious run at the title.
Should Dirk van Duijvenbode win here, is there a chance Germany will be alright with renaming the host city Auberhausen? We can't count on that, but we can expect the totemic Dutchman to continue being a fixture in the latter part of events. Make no mistake, a litany of Michael Smith errors gave him a big hand, but credit must be doled out to that same steely determination that carried Van Duijvenbode to the World Grand Prix final. There's no way that Clayton can afford to relax, even if he gets out in front.
There's only one member of the PDC Order of Merit top ten left at the European Championship. As it turns out, that person's in red-hot form. Peter Wright has averaged north of 102 in both of his opening games - something no player can match. If Gerwyn Price hadn't have taken out some big finishes, the second round clash might have ended even earlier. If he keeps his levels this high, it's hard to see who topples the world champion.
When we dissect the tournament and ask what the biggest moments of the 2020 European Championship were, one of them will be the final visit to the oche on Friday. Mensur Suljovic sat on tops while Steve West, who'd just scored 55 to miss out on setting up a simple checkout, was adrift on 106. Nailing that 106 will have given the Englishman one almighty shot of confidence. He'll need to keep producing the moments of magic to have a chance against Wright.
Devon Petersen looked under serious threat for a bit against Martijn Kleermaker. It wasn't an impressive start for the German Darts Championship winner, and there was a question as to whether he'd join Rob Cross in Kleermaker's growing list of victims. Then all of a sudden, the Petersen barrage began, and his opponent didn't stand a chance. That explosive display will make any opponent wary, and would make Petersen a big favourite.
Ian White will fancy his chances regardless. Against Michael van Gerwen, the Diamond shone. He put in one of the best performances he's ever displayed on a big stage (if not the best). When chances needed to be taken, White took them. A superb 103.64 average underlines his outrageous performance. And to those focusing on Van Gerwen's perceived failings instead, I ask: who cares? White deserves his moment in the sun, but he knows it'll mean very little if Petersen sends him packing in the last of the four quarter-finals.
European Championship 2020 schedule
19:00 William O'Connor v James Wade
20:00 Jonny Clayton v Dirk van Duijvenbode
21:00 Peter Wright v Steve West
22:00 Devon Petersen v Ian White