Yes, we have an incredible summer of sport going on at the moment but it’s about to get cranked up a notch…

The World Matchplay is back! For darts fans, this is a special tournament, at an iconic venue with some magical memories down the years. It is arguably the biggest major in darts outside of the World Championship and it never fails to disappoint!

Does it get much bigger than Luke Littler vs Michael Van Gerwen in round one? And if that wasn’t juicy enough for you, try Gary Anderson vs Michael Smith!? Both of those matches are taking place on a blockbuster Monday night of action but there’s plenty more to look forward to as well!

Let’s take a look at the draw.

Q1 – The Humphries quarter!

The world number one was a semi-finalist in Blackpool last year but this time you’d back him to not only make it out of this section and to make the final four again, but considering how he’s been playing over the past 10 months, I’d predict Cool Hand to make the final this time. And then… who knows!

Masters champion Stephen Bunting is in this section too. The Bullet averaged a whopping 117.12 on the European Tour last month and will be one to look out for, as will last year’s runner-up Jonny Clayton, and it looks like he’s finding form at the right time after picking up a ranking title just last week. The Ferret’s first task though? Getting past Raymond van Barneveld in round one.

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Luke Humphries slammed in 151, 121, 130 and 112 checkouts as he shone during England’s victory in the World Cup of Darts final against Austria

Q2 – The ‘I have no idea what’s going to happen here’ quarter!

This is a section that contains Gerwyn Price – a finalist two years ago – plus the defending champion Nathan Aspinall, but there are question marks around both heading to Blackpool. Price withdrew from the World Cup just two weeks ago, suffered a couple of early exits at last week’s Pro Tour events and has a tough opener with Daryl Gurney, while Aspinall is struggling with an elbow injury that could really derail the back end of his year so it will be interesting to see how both get on.

The standout tie of this quarter has to be Josh Rock against Ross Smith – two of the big scorers who should produce fireworks on the Winter Gardens stage. They’ve met once this year – that was last month on the European Tour. They both averaged over a ton, hit nine 180s between them and the match went down to a decider, so more of that please!

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Luke Littler helped Nathan Aspinall get the crowd going as he joined in with the iconic Mr. Brightside walk-on

Q3 – The popcorn quarter!

Yes, on Monday night, get the popcorn out because Michael van Gerwen, the second seed and three-time champion, meets the most exciting player on the planet in Luke Littler. They’ve met nine times this year already – on the World Series and in the Premier League – and it’s 5-4 to MvG but this is different, this is the Matchplay! It’s going to be a cracker!

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LuLittler is confident he can win the World Matchplay on debut if he beats three-time winner Michael van Gerwen in his opening match

Q4 – The get-more-popcorn quarter!

Make sure you’re fully stocked! The highlight from this bottom quarter sees 2018 Matchplay champion Gary Anderson take on 2023 World Champion Michael Smith. While Anderson is the unseeded player, he’s got the highest average of anyone on the tour over the past 12 months and could produce something special at a magical venue.

And why aren’t we talking more about Rob Cross at the moment!? Voltage has been playing at such a consistent level for a prolonged period, he picked up a title in New York just last month and I think he just might be one to watch in Blackpool.

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Michael Bridge discusses whether Michael Smith be in England’s team at next year’s World Cup of Darts, despite a successful campaign at this year’s tournament


Is it boring to say Luke Humphries? Oh well, I’m saying it!

The world number one and world champion is playing some brilliant darts at the moment, he was dazzling at the World Cup just a matter of weeks ago and I don’t see that form coming to an end any time soon. I mentioned previously he had a run to the semi-finals last year so we know he’s not phased by the venue or the crowd in Blackpool, and he certainly won’t feel any pressure being the top seed, if anything he’ll relish it!

Cool Hand for the win!

Watch the World Matchplay Darts from this Saturday all the way until the final on Sunday July 21 live on Sky Sports.

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