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World Matchplay darts 1st round: Title fav Van Gerwen features

One of darts’ major events is almost upon us, the World Matchplay at Blackpool’s Winter Gardens, so Coral writers preview the first day of the opening round, which is best-of-19 legs for the stars.

Of the current field he likes of 32 players this year, just two of them (Phil Taylor and James Wade) have won here before, but potential title challengers Michael van Gerwen, Adrian Lewis and Peter Wright all feature on Saturday.

Simon Whitlock v Jelle Klaasen

Simon-Whitlock

Australian Whitlock’s ability has tailed off in the last couple of years, but he is still in the PDC world top 10 and reached the semis here last year. However, he next faces Klaasen who he hasn’t enjoyed playing recently, which is why he is the slight outsider at evens to win this first round fixture.

Dutchman Klaasen (4/5 odds-on favourite), who is a BDO world champion, has beaten The Wizard in two of their last three meetings, including this year at the Players Championship semi-final in Barnsley.

Klaasen won that duel 6-1, but on the bigger stage it should be a close battle. Back The Cobra, therefore, at a tempting 9/1 chance to triumph 10-6 this time.

Peter Wright v Kim Huybrechts

Darts - 2014 William Hill World Darts Championship - Day Eleven - Alexandra Palace

This is certainly the battle of the round, between world number five Wright (8/13 favourite) and 15th-ranked Huybrechts (13/10).

It is also a repeat of their first round encounter at the World Matchplay in 2013, where Snakebite triumphed 10-4. The Scot, who is in great current form having reached the World Cup of Darts and Japan Masters finals, has also won his last two against the Belgian, so back him at a tempting 10/1 to beat him 10-5 this time.

Fifth seed Wright is a very enticing 25/1 chance to lift the trophy, while even Huybrechts’ odds of 50/1 are not very appealing given that he’s never won a match here in three attempts.

Michael van Gerwen v Benito van de Pas

International Darts Open in Riesa

Mighty Mike remains at number one in the world, despite his major trophy success this year being limited to the Coral UK Open, and he will be itching to get his hands on this trophy for the first time. He is the 7/4 favourite.

Van Gerwen has certainly edged nearer and nearer in the last three years to the title, progressing from the quarters, then semis and lastly the final in 2014, so can he go one step further and break The Power’s seven-year streak?

He is up first against compatriot Van de Pas, who actually won their last battle 6-4 in June at the International Darts Open, and rising star Big Ben is an enticing 13/2 shout to cause another upset. Van Gerwen, though, is the heavy odds-on favourite at 1/12 to avoid another shock.

Adrian Lewis v Joe Murnan

World Cup of Darts

The final match of the night in Blackpool sees 2013 runner-up Lewis (1/9) take on Murnan (11/2), who has never progressed past the first round here.

If you fancy World Cup winner with England Jackpot to lift his first World Matchplay, then take odds of 14/1.