Three former champions will be in action on the opening night of the 2020 World Matchplay on Saturday, with Michael van Gerwen, James Wade and Gary Anderson all set to take to the Marshall Arena stage in Milton Keynes.

The tournament will be staged with 32 players competing for the Phil Taylor Trophy from 18th-26th July.

Cross defends his World Matchplay title

Saturday will see five first-round games take place from 18:00 BST, including two-time winner Van Gerwen – the top seed – taking on Northern Ireland’s Brendan Dolan. The 2007 winner, Wade, will play former world youth champion Keegan Brown, while 2018 champion Anderson comes up against Justin Pipe.

Two-time World Matchplay semi-finalist Simon Whitlock meets debutant Ryan Joyce in the tournament’s opening fixture, and Poland’s Krzysztof Ratajski takes on Dutchman Jermaine Wattimena.

Rob Cross will begin his title defence on Sunday evening against Germany’s Gabriel Clemens, on a night which also features world champion Peter Wright and former finalists Michael Smith and Mensur Suljovic.

Monday’s five first-round ties include world number three Gerwyn Price up against Danny Noppert, 2013 finalist Adrian Lewis facing evergreen Steve Beaton and two-time semi-finalist Daryl Gurney meeting Ricky Evans.

The fixture between former UK Open champion Nathan Aspinall and Dimitri Van den Bergh concludes the first round on Tuesday, which also features the opening four matches from the last 16.

Van Gerwen backed to go all the way

Going into the event, Van Gerwen is the clear favourite at 6/4 and my choice to win this year after his good form over the five Summer Series events staged last week, with Wright playing him in the final.

Wright actually won the Summer Series Order of Merit and he would certainly like to add this title to his collection. Wright is 11/2 to triumph as he aims to add the World Matchplay title to his William Hill World Darts Championship success from over Christmas.

Price, Anderson and Smith should all have strong events and are priced at 13/2, 14/1 and 25/1 respectively, while the outsider for me would be Glen Durrant who has played extremely well in the Premier League and is 25/1 for victory.

2020 World Matchplay schedule of play

Saturday 18th July – first round (18:00 BST)

Simon Whitlock vs Ryan Joyce

Krzysztof Ratajski vs Jermaine Wattimena

James Wade vs Keegan Brown

Michael van Gerwen vs Brendan Dolan

Gary Anderson vs Justin Pipe

Sunday 19th July – first round (18:00 BST)

Mensur Suljovic vs Jamie Hughes

Glen Durrant vs Jeffrey de Zwaan

Rob Cross vs Gabriel Clemens

Peter Wright vs Jose Oliveira de Sousa

Michael Smith vs Jonny Clayton

Monday 20th July – first round (18:00 BST)

Dave Chisnall vs Vincent van der Voort

Ian White vs Joe Cullen

Daryl Gurney vs Ricky Evans

Gerwyn Price vs Danny Noppert

Adrian Lewis vs Steve Beaton

Tuesday 21st July – first round (18:00 BST)

Nathan Aspinall vs Dimitri Van den Bergh

Second round:

Smith/Clayton vs Suljovic/Hughes

Anderson/Pipe vs Wade/Brown

Van Gerwen/Dolan vs Whitlock/Joyce

Cross/Clemens vs Ratajski/Wattimena

Wednesday 22nd July – second round (19:00 BST)

Gurney/Evans vs Chisnall/Van der Voort

Aspinall/Van den Bergh vs White/Cullen

Wright/De Sousa vs Durrant/De Zwaan

Price/Noppert vs Lewis/Beaton

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