FA Cup Preview and Prediction: Reading vs Arsenal

Competition: FA Cup semi-final – Reading vs. Arsenal

Venue: Wembley Stadium – Saturday, April 18 – 17:20 BST (12:20 ET)

Match Odds: Reading 12/1 – Draw 5/1 – Arsenal 1/4

Match Preview

Reading and Arsenal clash at Wembley Stadium for the first FA Cup semi-final on Saturday evening as the Gunners look to reach a second successive final and continue the defence of their title.

Reading are undoubtedly major underdogs coming into the game as they sit eighteenth in the Championship and many will struggle to see how they can overturn Arsenal, but the beauty of this competition is that anything can happen.

Few would’ve predicted Bradford winning at Chelsea or Middlesbrough winning at Manchester City in the fourth round, so the Royals can approach the game with a nothing to lose attitude.

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Steve Clarke’s side are without a win in five games in all competitions and their last victory came in the FA Cup quarter-final replay against Bradford – the Royals have won just two of their last 12 (D5, L5). Reading have also seen off Huddersfield, Cardiff and Derby in their run to the semi-final.

Arsenal are the FA Cup holders and arguably the best team in the country right now after a run of eight straight wins has lifted them to second in the Premier League – the Gunners have also won 15 out of their last 16 domestic fixtures.

Arsene Wenger‘s last taste of defeat in the FA Cup was against Championship opposition in February 2013 when Blackburn Rovers won 1-0 in a fifth round tie at the Emirates Stadium. Arsenal are undefeated in 10 FA Cup ties since then, including victories over Hull, Brighton, Middlesbrough and Manchester United in this season’s competition.

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It will be the Arsenal manager’s tenth FA Cup semi-final and should the Gunners go on to lift the famous trophy once again, they will become the most successful club in the history of the competition – they currently share the record for most FA Cup titles (11) with Manchester United.

The last time these two sides met, Arsenal ran out as 4-1 winners in a Premier League game back in March 2013. The last cup meeting between the two was that enthralling 7-5 League Cup comeback win for Arsenal in October 2012 at the Madejski Stadium after Reading had taken a 4-0 lead.

The Wembley stage is set and the FA Cup semi-final is always a great day for both sets of players and fans alike. Arsenal are heavy favourites, but Reading will relish the occasion that marks their best achievement in the competition since 1927 as they attempt to reach their first ever FA Cup final.

Team News

Reading will be delighted that striker Pavel Pogrebnyak will be available after struggling with a knee injury, although they will be without the on-loan Nathan Ake and Kwesi Appiah as they are both cup tied.

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Arsenal have rarely had so many options at their disposal in recent years as only Mikel Arteta and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are unavailable with injury. Wojciech Szczesny will start in goal as he continues his role as the ‘cup goalkeeper’, while Wenger could also rotate on-pitch slightly from the team that faced Burnley last weekend. Mathieu Debuchy and Jack Wilshere are both fully fit and available for selection.

Key Points

Reading’s last five in all competitions: L/D/D/D/L

Arsenal’s last five in all competitions: W/W/W/W/W

Key Stat: Arsenal have won all 12 of their previous matches against Reading, so the Royals will be making history if they win this one.

Key Player: Mesut Ozil – The German has put in some excellent performances in the last few months and on a big Wembley pitch, this is the type of game where he could really pull the strings and open up Reading’s defence.

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Score Prediction

Arsenal 2-0 Reading – The FA Cup is a magical competition but it’s so hard to see how a struggling Reading side are going to upset the rhythm of an Arsenal team that can’t stop winning. The Gunners will be made to work hard but should ultimately win the game comfortably.

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FA Cup Preview and Prediction: Aston Villa vs Liverpool

Competition: FA Cup semi-final – Aston Villa vs. Liverpool

Venue: Wembley Stadium – Sunday, April 19th – 15:00 BST (10:00 ET)

Match Odds: Aston Villa 9/2 – Draw 14/5 – Liverpool 8/13

Match Preview

Wembley is the venue for this weekend’s semi-final clash between Aston Villa and Liverpool to see who can earn their place in this year’s FA Cup final.

Villa are shock contenders for the final as they are in a battle against relegation in the Premier League, but since the appointment of Tim Sherwood things have been on the up, and it looks like they will avoid the drop.

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The Villains come into the game off the back of a 1-0 away win at Tottenham Hotspur and Sherwood’s players are filling up with confidence.

In their run to the semi-final they have conceded just two goals, knocking out Premier League clubs, Leicester City and West Bromwich Albion and will look to prove stiff opposition against the Reds this weekend.

Liverpool are another side who have been in good form, and finally reached the semi’s after their 1-0 replay win against Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park in the last round.

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That was the second of their replay’s in the run to the semi’s, as they had a scare against Championship outfit, Bolton Wanderers earlier on in the competition, but Brendan Rodgers will be itching for some success out of this season and a place in the final will put them one step closer to a trophy.

Steven Gerrard will be itching to get to Wembley for one last time with his boyhood club and winning this game will ensure he can play in the final on his birthday before he jets off to LA Galaxy in the summer.

Team News

Aston Villa are set to be without Chris Herd and Libor Kozak for the game. Gabriel Agbonlahor is facing a late race to fitness as he was forced off last time out for Villa with a hamstring problem. Christian Benteke has come into form at the right time for the club, scoring four in his last two games and will lead the attack.

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Liverpool could be without Adam Lallana and Mamadou Sakho as they are still recovering from injury. Daniel Sturridge missed out in Liverpool’s last game but is expected to return, while captain Steven Gerrard could also return to the starting lineup after serving his suspension.

Key Points

Aston Villa’s FA Cup form: W/W/W/W

Liverpool’s FA Cup form: D/W/W/D/W

Key Stat: Liverpool have won the last six FA Cup meetings between the sides without conceding a single goal. Villa did win their first ever FA Cup meeting back in 1897 though and will hope to get their second victory 118 years later.

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Key Player: Raheem Sterling – The Liverpool starlet has had another great season so far and needs to let his football do the talking in their remaining games. He seemed unfazed by the controversy surrounding his contract talks in Liverpool’s Monday night win and he can provide the difference here.

Score Prediction

Aston Villa 1-2 Liverpool – Liverpool should have the edge in this one but the Villa players can make a poor season a very good one if they are to reach the final. Expect goals in what should be a thriller.

FA Cup Preview and Prediction: Manchester United vs Arsenal

Competition: FA Cup Quarter-Final – Manchester United vs Arsenal

Venue: Old Trafford – Monday 9th March – 19:45 GMT (14:45 ET)

Match Odds: Man United 7/5 – Draw 5/2 – Arsenal 19/10

Match Preview

Arsenal travel to Old Trafford to face Manchester United in the final FA Cup quarter-final tie of the weekend on Monday night. With both sides fighting for a top four spot in the league, this tie acts as a happy distraction.

We’re expecting both Louis Van Gaal and Arsene Wenger to deploy full-strength sides as they both pursue the trophy. But both will be wary that any cup run must not affect their league form with just 10 games left.

Manchester United are the favorites heading into this one having won their last six meetings with Arsenal at Old Trafford in all competitions.

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With United not playing in Europe this season there really is no excuse for them finishing outside the top four. And with the size of the club, United should be challenging on all fronts.

This is the furthest the Red Devils have got in the FA Cup for four seasons and both sides know that a place at Wembley is in line for whoever can advance to the semi-finals.

But with the injury to Robin Van Persie, are United strong enough to beat an Arsenal side that has won ten of their last twelve in all competitions?

Holders Arsenal will see this as a free hit. With a poor record at Old Trafford over the years (including an 8-2 drubbing in 2011), Arsenal are the underdogs in this tie.

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Arsenal haven’t beaten Manchester United since May 2011, and will do well to break that run on Monday night in what will be a tough game, though a draw would earn the Gunners a replay at the Emirates.

Both sides boast some great attacking players, but can both be fragile defensively, so we’re expecting goals.

This will be the fourteenth FA Cup meeting between the two sides but Manchester United have dominated the most recent ties, winning the last two at Old Trafford without conceding a goal.

Team News

Manchester United: Luke Shaw (hamstring) and Robin Van Persie (ankle) are ruled out. Jonny Evans starts his six-match suspension so Phil Jones is likely to fill in at centre-back alongside Chris Smalling. Wayne Rooney is likely to continue playing as a striker in the absence of Van Persie.

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Arsenal: Jack Wilshere (ankle), Mikel Arteta (ankle), Mathieu Flamini (hamstring), Mathieu Debuchy (shoulder) and Abou Diaby (calf) are all out. Gabriel Paulista (hamstring) is a doubt while Wojciech Szczesny and Nacho Monreal will face late fitness tests.Aaron Ramsey could return to the starting lineup while Olivier Giroud is set to play as the lone striker once again.

Key Points

Manchester United’s last five in all competitions: W/W/L/W/W

Arsenal’s last five in all competitions: W/W/L/W/W

Key Stat: Arsenal haven’t beaten Manchester United in the FA Cup in normal time since February 2003.

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Key Player: Santi Cazorla – Since being deployed in a more central role, Cazorla has been sensational. Expect him to be key on Monday night.

Score Prediction

Manchester United 3-2 Arsenal – We’re expecting a high scoring affair and an instant classic that could set the tone for both teams going into the final stretch of the season. Home advantage should see United edge it.

FA Cup Preview and Prediction: Preston vs Manchester United

Preston vs Manchester United: FA Cup Fifth Round

Venue: Deepdale – Monday 16th February – 19:45

Match Odds: Preston 6/1 – Draw 100/30 – Manchester United 4/9

Manchester United continue their FA Cup run on Monday night with a visit down the M61 to Deepdale to take on Simon Grayson’s Preston North End side.

Louis Van Gaal’s men will be hoping for an easy ride and go into the game as clear favourites but the League One side are more than capable of an upset.

Preston’s home record in all competitions this season: Played 20 – Won 11 – Drawn 7 – Lost 2

Preston come into the fifth round off the back of two league wins on the bounce and will hope the FA Cup provides a good distraction from their push for promotion. Preston currently lay in fourth in League One and have the joint best defensive record in the league.

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Grayson has the advantage of having the Cup’s leading goalscorer in Paul Gallagher (5) and also has veteran striker Kevin Davies at his disposal, who has a total of 19 all-time FA Cup goals to his name.

Preston will provide a stern test for United and will hope to cause an upset in their first meeting with the Red Devils in 43 years.

Manchester United’s away record in all competitions: Played 15 – Won 4 – Drawn 8 – Lost 3

United have struggled at times to adapt to Van Gaal’s way of thinking with the 3-5-2 formation and that has now been dropped so we expect United to continue with the 4-3-1-2 system that has worked well recently.

The decision to deploy his captain, Wayne Rooney in a central midfield role has been a stroke of brilliance and United will benefit from the Englishman’s presence in the middle of the park once again on Monday as midfield general Michael Carrick is out. Luke Shaw returns from suspension and so Marcos Rojo could move back into the heart of United’s defence.

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Manchester United are unbeaten in their last six in all competitions and will be aiming to continue their run in the FA Cup with a place in the quarter-finals at stake.

These two sides last locked horns in a competitive fixture back in 1972 in an FA Cup fourth round match at Deepdale. United ran out 2-0 winners on that day thanks to two late Alan Gowling goals.

Preston’s last five in all competitions: D/L/W/W/W

Manchester United’s last five in all competitions: D/W/W/D/W

Key Stat: Manchester United are yet to concede in this season’s FA Cup. Will that record end on Monday night?

Key Player: Wayne Rooney – The Manchester United captain is fully aware of what the FA Cup means to the Red Devil’s faithful and he will be key on Monday night.

Score Prediction: Preston 1 – 1 Manchester United – A tricky tie for United that will result in another replay at Old Trafford.

FA Cup Preview and Prediction: Aston Villa vs Leicester City

Aston Villa vs. Leicester City – FA Cup Fifth Round

Venue: Villa Park – Sunday, February 15th – 12:30PM

Match Odds: Aston Villa 7/5 – Draw 9/4 – Leicester City 19/10

Seven-time FA Cup winners Aston Villa entertain Leicester City at Villa Park in the early kick off on Sunday in what could be a fiercely contested game in the fifth round of the competition.

It will be Aston Villa’s first game since they parted company with manager Paul Lambert and they need to get back to winning ways, but most importantly start scoring goals.

Both sides are at difficult points in their season as both Villa and Leicester sit in the relegation zone in the Premier League and will definitely want to avoid a replay from this game as a result. Though a run in the cup will be good for lifting spirits.

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Aston Villa have scored just three times in their last ten games in all competitions, while the Foxes have scored ten in the same time.

This is the first Premier League side Aston Villa have faced in this year’s FA Cup after beating Championship outfits Blackpool and AFC Bournemouth at Villa Park in the third and fourth rounds respectively.

Aston Villa’s home record in all competitions: Played 15 – Won 4 – Drawn 5 – Lost – 6

Villa have really struggled this season, scoring just 12 league goals, but as we know, the FA Cup is a completely different competition and they could begin a strong finish to the season with a good result in this tie.

Leicester City’s away record in all competitions: Played 14 – Won 3 – Drawn 1 – Lost – 10 

Leicester have really struggled away from home this season, but can take positives from their 2-1 fourth round win against Tottenham and third round victory against Newcastle.

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The Foxes come into the game off the back of two defeats and managerial problems of their own after widespread reports suggested that Nigel Pearson had been sacked on Sunday night, though they ultimately proved to be incorrect.

 

Leicester can get themselves back on track with a win in this game and need to remove some of the media pressure they have been under.

A place in the quarter-final will be a major boost for either side and will help to improve what has been a tough season.

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It will be the fifth time these rivals have met in the FA Cup, with both sides having won two each in the previous four encounters. The most recent FA Cup meeting saw the Foxes win 2-1 at Villa Park in 2001.

Aston Villa’s last five in all competitions: L/W/L/L/L

Leicester City’s last five in all competitions: L/W/L/L/L

Key Stat: Aston Villa and Leicester have already faced each other twice in the league this season, with both games ending in victory for the home side by a single goal (2-1 to Villa and 1-0 to Leicester). Expect this to be just as close.

Key Player: Brad Guzan – The USMNT International goalkeeper has been consistently good for Aston Villa this season and if he is on song Villa will likely only need the one goal to progress.

Score Prediction: Aston Villa 1–0 Leicester City – Both sides are struggling and will want to avoid the replay. With Leicester so poor on the road Villa could just edge it.

Bolton vs Liverpool Prediction and Preview: FA Cup Replay

Competition: FA Cup Fourth Round Replay

Venue: Macron Stadium – Wednesday, February 4th – 19:45 GMT

Match Odds: Bolton 5/1 – Draw 3/1 – Liverpool 8/15

Liverpool travel to Bolton for their FA Cup fourth round replay on Wednesday night with a place in the fifth round against Crystal Palace on offer for whoever wins the game.

The game at Anfield 10 days ago ended 0-0 as Bolton were able to hold on despite Liverpool’s nine shots on target. Bolton did not register a single shot on goal.

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Brendan Rodgers is expected to field a strong team for the trip as the FA Cup has become even more of a realistic target for the Reds following Manchester City and Chelsea’s exits from the competition.

Liverpool have not lost a game in since the middle of December, not including the extra-time loss to Chelsea last week, and have only conceded two goals in their last six in all competitions, both against Chelsea, and one of them came in that extra-time loss.

Bolton come into the game in poor form having only won one of their last five and have conceded six times in two games since that 0-0 draw at Anfield.

Bolton’s home record in all competitions: Played 16 – Won 8 – Drawn 5 – Lost 3

They have been better at home though and are unbeaten in nine when playing in front of their own fans. They will hope that record extends to ten if they are to progress to the fifth round.

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Former Liverpool striker Emile Heskey is a doubt for the game as he is struggling with a hamstring injury, while new signings Ben Amos, Adam Le Fondre, Rochinha, Barry Bannan, Simeon Slavchev, Filip Twardzik and Saidy Janko are all unavailable as they were not registered for the first tie. Goalkeeper Adam Bogdan is also out with an ankle injury.

Liverpool’s away record in all competitions: Played 17 – Won 8 – Drawn 1 – Lost 8

Liverpool should give Steven Gerrard his 700th appearance for the club after he sat out of Saturday’s win against West Ham. Daniel Sturridge returned after five months out with a goal in that game and could feature again on Wednesday.

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This will be the thirteenth FA Cup meeting between Liverpool and Bolton and the Trotters will be buoyed by the fact that the Reds have only won three of the previous 12 in the competition.

Bolton’s last five in all competitions: D/W/D/L/D

Liverpool’s last five in all competitions: W/D/D/L/W

Key Player: Zach Clough – The 19-year-old Bolton striker has scored three goals in two starts since the turn of the year, including a brace against Wolves on Saturday, so he’s one to watch.

Key Stat: Bolton have not lost at home in their last nine games.

Score Prediction: Bolton 0–2 Liverpool

Brighton & Hove Albion vs Arsenal: FA Cup Preview and Prediction

Competition: FA Cup Fourth Round

Venue: Amex Stadium – Sunday January 25 – 16:00

Match odds: Brighton & Hove Albion 13/2 – Draw 7/2 – Arsenal 4/9

FA Cup holders Arsenal face a short trip to Brighton & Hove Albion in the fourth round as they look to continue the defence of their title.

These two sides met at the same stage of this competition in the 2012/13 season and produced an entertaining affair in which Arsenal triumphed as 3-2 winners on the day, thanks to goals from Olivier Giroud and a late Theo Walcott strike after Ashley Barnes and Leonardo Ulloa had pegged the visitors back twice.

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Brighton were flying high in the Championship last time around, but they aren’t faring so well this season as they sit in 19th position despite three wins from their last four.

Brighton & Hove Albion’s home record in all competitions: Played 15 – Won 4 – Drawn 6 – Lost 5

Arsenal meanwhile, will be full of confidence after their defensive masterclass at Manchester City which resulted in a famous 2-0 victory and it extended their run of consecutive clean sheets to three games in all competitions.

The Gunners arrive on the South Coast as heavy favourites to progress to round five, but the magic of the FA Cup means that nothing is ever certain and the Seagulls won’t allow them to take it easy.

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Arsenal’s away record in all competitions: Played 16 – Won 7 – Drawn 4 – Lost 5

Wenger must ensure he fields a strong side to stay in the competition that many will argue represents his best opportunity of winning a trophy again in 2015.

Brighton and Arsenal have faced one another 14 times before, with the Gunners coming out on top ten times, and Brighton just twice, although it’s worth noting that both of Brighton’s wins came at home, so that’s the one positive they can take into this tie.

Brighton & Hove Albion’s last five in all competitions: W/W/W/L/W

Arsenal’s last five in all competitions: W/L/W/W/W

Key stat: Brighton have never beaten Arsenal in an FA Cup tie in four attempts.

Key player: Santi Cazorla – The midfield playmaker has been instrumental in the last few weeks and if he features at the Amex Stadium then he could be the difference.

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Brighton vs. Arsenal Prediction: Brighton & Hove Albion 0-2 Arsenal

Bristol City vs West Ham United: FA Cup Preview and Prediction

Competition – FA Cup Fourth Round

Venue: Ashton Gate Stadium – Sunday, January 25 – 14:00

Match Odds: Bristol City 3/1 – Draw 13/5 – West Ham 19/20

Bristol City play host to the Premier League’s surprise package of the season, West Ham United, on Sunday afternoon in what should be a classic FA Cup tie.

Both sides had the trouble of playing a replay in the third round this month and could do without another one as both are chasing high finishes in the league.

Bristol City’s home record in all competitions: Played 17 – Won 13 – Drawn 2 – Lost 2

Bristol City lie second in League 1 and are looking good for a promotion this season. They come into the game in fine form off the back of an unbeaten run of seven and they have won six of those.

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However, Steve Cotterill’s men should see this game as a pleasant distraction from the league and a chance to cause a great cup upset in front of their own fans will be the target this weekend.

West Ham’s away record in all competitions: Played 11 – Won 3 – Drawn 5 – Lost 3

West Ham have had a slight lapse in form of late but did well to overcome Everton in round four. The Hammers are unbeaten in five but have had to settle for draws in four of those matches.

They had Carlton Cole to thank in the replay against Everton as he scored within a minute of coming on, and then converted his spot kick in the shootout, and Cole could get a start at Bristol this weekend.

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Sam Allardyce’s side are bringing defensive problems into this game, as James Tomkins and James Collins are both doubtful, and the Hammers have not kept a clean sheet away from home all season.

These two sides last met three years ago when both sides were in the Championship and played out a 1-1 draw at Ashton Gate on that day. The Hammers have not lost in any of the last ten meetings between the two, winning five.

Bristol City’s last five in all competitions: D/W/W/W/W

West Ham’s last five in all competitions: D/D/D/D/W

Key Stat: West Ham has failed to win in their last seven FA Cup ties.

Key Player: Alex Song – Since returning to the Premier League he has settled into this West Ham midfield superbly and has provided stability, as well as a lot more freedom for Mark Noble. He should be the difference in winning the midfield battle if he starts.

Bristol City vs. West Ham United Prediction: Bristol City 1 – 2 West Ham United – The Hammers to edge it and seal their place in the next round.