Addition of the European Cup means even more high-class battles are expected at the Night of the 10,000m PBs

Andy Vernon and Chris Thompson are, on paper, the fastest men in the field going into the Highgate Harriers Night of the 10,000m PBs on Saturday night in north London. After Ross Millington’s withdrawal this week due to injury, they are the only athletes with sub-28min PBs, but they face tough opposition in an event that incorporates the European Cup this year.

Rivals include Adel Mechaal – the European indoor 3000m champion – who is making his 10,000m debut at Highgate. The 27-year-old is an unknown quantity over 25 laps, but after placing fourth in the world 1500m final last year in London and second in the European Cross Country Championships in Samorin in December he has a formidable blend of speed and stamina.

Joining him at Highgate are his Spanish team-mates such as Antonio Abadia and Juan Perez, too. Abadia, 27, is the reigning European 10,000m Cup champion as he won in Minsk last year, while Pérez, 29, has finished runner-up at the European 10,000m Cup in the last three years.

In the team stakes, Spain is the one to beat, too, as they took a clean sweep of the medals – and a record ninth team title – last year.

Another athlete making his debut is Morhad Amdouni of France. Just over 10 years ago he won European junior titles at 5000m and in cross country, while more recently he’s shown flashes of great form – such as finishing two seconds behind Mo Farah over 5000m indoors in Birmingham in February last year in 13:11.

Yemane Crippa is another strong contender. The Italian won the European under-23 5000m title last year and is a former Euro Cross under-20 gold medallist, while he ran a 5000m PB of 13:18.83 a few weeks ago.

Crippa’s Italian team-mate Florian Carvalho also has the ability to make an impact. Carvalho won European under-23 1500m gold in 2011, but he is also a former Euro Cross age-group winner and has moved up in distance lately, placing 59th in the recent World Half Marathon Championships in Valencia in 63:40.

Amare Girmaw of Israel also ran at the World Half – coming 52nd in 63:19 – and is also in the Highgate line-ups.

Germany only has one male entrant but it’s a good one. Richard Ringer has won bronze at the European championships – indoors and outdoors – and his 10,000m PB is 28:05.96. A few weeks after his big marathon PB of 2:15:55 on a hot day in London, Stephen Scullion of Ireland is back in action on the track here.

Perhaps the most intriguing entrant of all, though, is Alex Yee. The 20-year-old triathlete ran 13:37.60 for 5000m last May – the fastest time by a British junior for 36 years – and he helped pace at the 2017 Highgate event, but he suffered injuries soon after in a bike crash before returning this year to win the BUCS cross-country title and to run a fast split at the national road relays last month.

Yee is joined by Ben Connor, Luke Traynor, Mohamud Aadan and Sam Stabler on the GB team, while last year’s Highgate winner Vernon, former European silver medallist Thompson and runners like Luke Caldwell, Matt Leach and Ellis Cross ensure a strong home turn-out.

When the ‘European 10,000m Challenge’ was introduced in 1997, it was a low-key event staged for the first five years in either Portugal or Spain. Paula Radcliffe used the event to make her 10,000m debut in Lisbon in 1998 – placing runner-up to Fernanda Ribiero – and in 1999 she smashed the UK record to win the race when it was held in Barakaldo, before returning to the same venue in 2001 to seal a hat-trick of wins.

Since then it has been renamed the European 10,000m Cup, but its role remains valuable as an early-season (it was originally held in April) chance to get a championships qualifier, or for a 10,000m rookie to test their potential over 25 laps (Mo Farah is another former winner, incidentally, taking the men’s race in 27:28 in Marseilles in 2010).

The women’s field this year contains a former two-time winner, Sabrina Mockenhaupt.  The German will be trying to seal a Radcliffe-esque hat-trick of Euro Cup wins at the distance and she has a best of 31:14.21.

Facing Mockenhaupt will be Lonah Chemtai Salpeter, who enjoyed a 31:39.63 win at the Israeli Championships recently. Chemtai was born in Kenya but moved to Israel 10 years ago and she is a nanny for the Kenyan ambassador to Israel. The 29-year-old gained Israeli citizenship two years ago and ran the marathon in the Rio Olympics but dropped out in the latter stages.

The British team includes Charlotte Arter, Jenny Nesbitt, Louise Small, Claire Duck and Faye Fullerton, while Emelia Gorecka, Katrina Wootton, Kate Avery, Philippa Bowden, Stevie Stockton and Mhairi Maclennan are also entered.

When it comes to other contenders, Krisztina Papp of Hungary will not be short of stamina. The 35-year-old is a 2:36 marathoner and a former European under-23 10,000m champion.

Jip Vastenburg leads the Dutch challenge. The 24-year- old has won Euro track titles in the under-20 and under-23 age groups and has a 31:35.48 PB for 10,000m from 2015.

As always, the Spanish team is strong and includes Nuria Lugueros and Ana Lozano – the latter making her debut after sixth in the 3000m at the European Indoors last year. Former Euro Cross champion Sophie Duarte, of France, is another high-calibre entrant.

The races also act as the British Championships and trial for the European Championships in Berlin. The meeting is free to watch and includes a question and answer session featuring Jo Pavey, Alyson Dixon and European Athletics president Svein Arne Hansen, plus entertainment from Britain’s Got Talent act Faces of Disco, fire jugglers, pirate drummers, live bands, a back straight DJ and even an RAF Typhoon flypast.

What’s more, in addition to letting fans get into lane three with beer to cheer the athletes, there is a special bridge this year allowing people to cross the track into the in-field.

The meeting kicks off with an inter-schools relay at 1pm with the first 10,000m race at 2pm and the European Cup races at 8.30pm and 9.15pm.

» A Vinco live stream is set to be shown from 8.15pm on BBC Sport online