"Luke Humphries v Michael Smith final. Humphries to win!" - Wayne Mardle makes his World Matchplay prediction

The summer season traditionally features the World Matchplay, where 32 players will compete starting next Saturday at the iconic Winter Gardens in Blackpool for the second-largest PDC title on the calendar.

Nathan Aspinall starts the tournament as the defending champion. He managed to win last year's tournament by beating Krzysztof Ratajski (10-7), Danny Noppert (11-9), Chris Dobey (16-12) and Joe Cullen (17-9) through to the final. In the final, he was able to win convincingly 18-6 over Jonny Clayton to capture the Phil Taylor Trophy for the first time in his career. 'The Asp' will open his 2024 campaign with a match against Luke Woodhouse.

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The absolute star attraction of the first round, however, is the duel between Luke Littler and Michael van Gerwen. Littler starts the tournament as the top favourite, having won the Premier League Darts earlier this year and having also secured several World Series of Darts tournaments to his name. A small side note: during the past two Players Championships, however, he was eliminated early on.

However, Wayne Mardle, himself a losing finalist at the 2003 World Matchplay, has little faith in either Littler or Van Gerwen. When asked on X, "Hi Wayne, who do you think will win the World Matchplay?" replied Mardle, "FINAL. Humphries v Smith. Humphries to WIN!"

'Bully Boy' and 'Cool Hand Luke' also both know their route toward the final. Smith sits on the side of the draw with Littler and Van Gerwen. In the first round, he will face his old mentor Gary Anderson, before possibly facing the winner of the match between Chris Dobey and Ritchie Edhouse in the second round. Humphries, who is at the other end of the draw, will meet German Ricardo Pietreczko in the first round. Should he beat "Pikachu," he will face Stephen Bunting or Ryan Joyce in the second round.

Both Humphries and Smith come to the World Matchplay in good form and with great confidence. At the end of last month, they won the World Cup of Darts together for England. Humphries reached the semifinals in Blackpool just last year, while Smith reached the final in 2019.

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