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.