Luke Littler tells fans 'get popcorn ready' after Michael van Gerwen World Matchplay darts draw

Luke Littler has urged fans to "get your popcorn ready" as he prepares to face Michael van Gerwen in the World Matchplay.

The Nuke, who celebrated his 17th birthday in January, continued his impressive form following his World Championship final appearance with a successful debut at the Premier League Darts. He avenged his world final defeat by beating Luke Humphries 11-7, despite a recent setback against Robert Grundy in Milton Keynes.

Littler is unseeded for the tournament due to his ranking outside the top 16 in the order of merit at the cut-off point. This put him at risk of a challenging draw, which indeed materialised. However, he confidently listed the venues where he previously defeated Van Gerwen using check-mark emojis, and placed a sand timer emoji next to the Winter Gardens in Blackpool, the venue for their upcoming clash.

Van Gerwen, the second seed, has claimed the World Matchplay title three times, with his most recent victory in 2022 when he overcame Gerwyn Price 18-14 in the final, reports the Mirror. "Get your popcorn ready, it's going to be sick," Littler posted on social media. The teen sensation is among several high-profile names in the unseeded half of the draw, with 16 players reaching the Winter Gardens based on the PDC ProTour Order of Merit.

Unseeded former double world champ Gary Anderson has been paired up with 2023 world king Michael Smith in an opening round tie, while top seed Humphries is pitted against tourney newcomer Ricardo Pietreczko. The prize title of last year's World Matchplay was grabbed by Nathan Aspinall, who knocked out Jonny Clayton in the finale. Defending champ Aspinall will start his campaign against Luke Woodhouse, Clayton meanwhile is to compete against Raymond van Barneveld.

"I'm glad I avoided Luke, definitely," Aspinall uttered post-draw [as reported by The Sun]. "I could have drawn Gary [Anderson] or Luke. It's not Littler who I thought I was going to get!. Some brutal draws though. Oh my God MVG v Luke. For me Gary v Mike's probably a better one. The history them two have got."

Although Aspinall confessed he's not at peak capacity, the reigning master remains bullish about claiming back-to-back victories. "I wouldn't play in it if I didn't think I could win it. I believe I can win back-to-back. It's going to be tougher than last year because of the situation I am in."

First round face-offs are scheduled to kick off on July 13, culminating in the best-of-35-legs grand finale on July 21. Participants competing in the opening stage will bag a guaranteed £10k, while the supreme winner could pocket a lush £200k in prize money.