THREE St Helens hopefuls in the Unibet European Championship will all be in first-round action on Friday afternoon.

With the tournament in Belgium featuring the leading 32 players from the European Tour Order of Merit after 12 events across the continent this year, the Gibraltar Darts Trophy winner Michael Smith will be the number three seed as he plays against Nathan Aspinall.

Fellow St Helens thrower Stephen Bunting will face number seven seed Joe Cullen, while Dave Chisnall will open up against Spain's Cristo Reyes.

World champion Michael Van Gerwen was forced to withdraw from last weekend's German Darts Masters due to the effects of bursitis in his ankle but he has declared himself fit to challenge for a fourth successive Unibet European Championship title.

Van Gerwen has been installed as the 8/11 tournament favourite and starts with an all-Dutch first round clash when he meets Jan Dekker tonight.

Last weekend's German Darts Masters winner Peter Wright is the 4/1 second favourite as he bids to follow up his 11 tournament wins this year with another TV title.

The world number three plays Polish star Krzysztof Ratajski as the first round continues on Friday afternoon.

First Round, Thursday (8pm local time, 7pm UK time): Gerwyn Price v Ronny Huybrechts, Alan Norris v Mervyn King, Ian White v Darren Webster, John Henderson v Kyle Anderson, Simon Whitlock (8) v James Richardson, Mensur Suljovic (4) v Kim Huybrechts, Michael van Gerwen (1) v Jan Dekker, Jelle Klaasen (5) v Christian Kist.

Friday (1.45pm local time, 12.45pm UK time): Jonny Clayton v Dimitri Van den Bergh, Dave Chisnall v Cristo Reyes, Benito van de Pas v Vincent van der Voort, Daryl Gurney v Steve Beaton, Michael Smith (3) v Nathan Aspinall, Rob Cross (6) v Martin Schindler, Joe Cullen (7) v Stephen Bunting, Peter Wright (2) v Krzysztof Ratajski.