Luke Littler is hopeful he can win the World Matchplay title if he overcomes Michael van Gerwen in their first-round clash in Blackpool.

The Premier League champion is targeting more silverware at the Winter Gardens, where he starts with a tough opening tie against Van Gerwen, who has edged their nine head-to-head encounters 5-4.

But the Dutchman, a three-time World Matchplay winner, has been struggling to find his best form this year and suffered defeat to Stephen Bunting in the final of the 2024 Masters.

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Littler is confident England will beat Netherlands to reach the Euro 2024 final, while Raymond van Barneveld hopes his home nation emerge victorious so he has family bragging rights!

Littler, who learned about the Van Gerwen match while attending the British Grand Prix, told the Love the Darts podcast: “I was at Silverstone doing the hot lap with Lando Norris [when he found out].

“I saw that darts on Facebook had just ended a live stream, so I went and scrolled until I found my name and I had Michael. I was saying, he’s not playing the best darts at the minute, but we all know what he’s capable of.”

Their blockbuster first-round showdown will take place on Monday, with the World Matchplay starting on Saturday, live on Sky Sports.

Van Gerwen is a match-up Littler will relish. “It’s always going to be interesting whoever I face, no matter who it is, especially playing Michael and especially for myself watching him [for] years and years,” Littler said.

“We have played nine times now, but it should be good.”

He added: “I’ve seen the names in the side of the draw that me and Michael are in, and I know if I do get past Michael, I will fancy my chances for whoever wins their games.

“But I think if I do get past Michael I could go on another good run.”

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Littler and Lando Norris take each other on at a darts challenge followed by a hot lap around the Silverstone track ahead of the British Grand Prix

It will be Littler’s World Matchplay debut. “I’ve always been watching it for many years and there have been so many champions,” he said. “I’ve heard it’s one of the hottest venues so I’m just going to have to get used to it.”

He is preparing himself for the Winter Gardens event with serious training.

“I’ve been practising hard this weekend and I’ve not finished practising yet, there are a few more days to go before I go to Blackpool,” he said.

“After winning the Premier League, we were always going to go to New York and I was always going to go to Florida for a week and just chill out. But after that I came back home and obviously went to Poland and won.

“Obviously it didn’t happen in New York, but it was just a good experience being in MSG [Madison Square Garden].

“The ProTours, I didn’t practise up towards them, so it was just a bit of match practise for myself. Now I’ve been practising at home towards the Matchplay.”

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That should leave him primed for the second major of the season.

“I love playing in front of a crowd, I think everyone knows that from the Worlds. Just getting involved with the crowd and just getting involved with them just makes me settle even more,” he said.

“It’s one of the best formats,” Littler continued. “Obviously first to 10 [legs], you play five, you go off for a break, and I always say to myself: ‘You’re on to the end now, no matter what happens, just try and get over the line””

Watch the World Matchplay Darts from July 13-21 live on Sky Sports.

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