World Matchplay Preview: Can Cross, Wade or Smith stop van Gerwen?

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After the exotic climes of Las Vegas and Shanghai, it’s back down to business for darts’ best players this weekend with the return of the iconic World Matchplay.

Two-time Blackpool champion Michael van Gerwen will head a field of 32 dartists competing for the newly named Phil Taylor Trophy.

The Power won this event last year but will not return to the Winter Gardens to defend his crown after retiring from the game following his World Championship defeat to Rob Cross.

Can MVG etch his name on the trophy for a third time? Or will an eighth different player write their name in the history books? We’ve looked over all the key contenders ahead of Saturday’s start.

Tournament favourites

As ever, MVG is the odds-on favourite to taste success at 8/11. But punters beware; the Dutchman doesn’t always fire on all cylinders on the seaside.

The Green Machine has gone all the way next door to the pleasure beach on just two of his nine tournament appearances. His recent form isn’t great either, so it could be worth looking elsewhere.

Gary Anderson provides the main alternative at 7/1. But eagle-eyed statisticians will note the Flying Scotsman has never gone beyond the semi-finals here.

Two recent last-four defeats and a UK Open success mark him out as having the best form on offer.

Likewise, Rob Cross (7/1) has failed to impress since his Alexandra Palace success. But Voltage backers will be buoyed by the fact the arrowsmith has been allotted the kinder side of the draw.

His path through to the semi-finals looks relatively straightforward, where a meeting with the out-of-form Peter Wright (9/1), should hold no fear.

Rest of the pack

James Wade and Mensur Suljovic are the best priced contenders outside of the big-four at 25/1 apiece.

The former is a Blackpool specialist having reached the final here on no fewer than six occasions since 2006.

He loves the longer format and off the back of some semi-decent displays coming into the tournament, could go well.

However, it’s 33/1 poke Michael Smith that piques our interest. Why? Well, Bully Boy is in the form of his life.

After reaching the Premier League Final, the 27-year-old picked up his first ever World Series win in Shanghai last week.

He’ll do well to get out of the tougher half of the draw. But if he can manage that, then a title tilt could be on.

Daryl Gurney (40/1), Simon Whitlock (80/1), Kim Huybrechts (125/1) and John Henderson (250/1) will also be hoping for positive runs.

The latter can be backed at 18/1 alone to advance from his quarter of the draw.

Click here for the latest World Matchplay odds.

All Odds and Markets correct as of date of publication

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