This coming weekend sees one of the highlights of the English season as four teams descend over two days to Wembley Stadium to contest the FA Cup Semi Finals.
Arsenal are chasing a second successive FA Cup success after their dramatic win over Hull City in the showpiece event last season and they face off on Saturday against the rank outsiders remaining in this year’s competition, Championship side Reading.
Barely 24-hours later, the second semi-final takes place at the same venue with two sides who face much longer trips to the capital. Aston Villa will make the trip from Birmingham, while Liverpool will face an even longer trip south in what looks like being a hugely intriguing contest.
Let’s take a look at both of these fixtures in more detail below, with our tips for which of the semi finalists will be returning to Wembley a month or so later to contest the FA Cup Final.
In the final section of this article, we will give our Bet365 tips for UK punters who are looking to place wagers on this event at Bet365, considered by many to be among the top UK bookies. Not yet a customer? Don’t worry, you’ll have your account set up in not time, and as a new UK player you’ll also qualify for Bet365 free sports bets when you join up.
Saturday 18th April – Wembley Stadium – Arsenal v Reading
The first semi-final is arguably what the FA Cup is all about as it pits one of the biggest clubs in world football against an underdog from a lower division. Arsenal are the strong favourites to make the final with the bookmakers at 2/7 with Reading a staggering 10/1 to defeat Arsene Wenger’s men.
If those odds sound rather high in what is a two-horse race, then it is worth noting that Arsenal have won 11 of their last 12 Premier League games and their only defeat in recent months has been a surprising 3-1 home loss to AS Monaco in the Champions League. They are the in-form team in the Premier League at the moment.
In contrast, Reading have endured something of a miserable season battling at the wrong end of the Championship table to avoid the drop. The Royals have only won two of their last ten games, but in the FA Cup this season they have enjoyed some strong performances, defeating three Championship sides away from home (Huddersfield Town, Cardiff City and Derby County) before defeating Bradford City 3-0 in a replay in the quarter final.
The Gunners defeated Hull City, Brighton, Middlesbrough and Manchester United to reach the quarter finals and given their current form and the fact that Arsene Wenger has an almost fully fit squad to select from, they will go into this game as the clear favourites.
That is not to say that Reading don’t have a fighters chance, in at least three of their games in the competition so far they have been the underdogs, but came through and the Royals do possess some genuinely top class players who can cause Arsenal problems, especially the likes of Hal Robson-Kanu and Pavel Pogrebnyak.
However, with Arsenal able to field the likes of Santi Cazorla, Mesut Ozil, Adam Ramsey and Premier League Player of the Month Olivier Giroud, as well as likely having the likes of Danny Welbeck and Theo Walcott available from the bench, it is easy to see why Arsenal are the obvious bookmakers favourite here.
Arsenal v Reading tips
Given their position as red hot favourites, Arsenal are pretty unbackable in the Full Time Result market (2/7) and although Reading are long odds, it is hard to consider backing the Royals to reach the FA Cup Final ahead of Arsenal given their relative squads and current form.
However there is some better value to be found in the Both Teams to Score/Result market. I strongly fancy Arsenal to win this game and while I’d love to see Reading at least find the net, I think given their current form, Arsenal will likely keep their lower league rivals off the scoresheet and with Arsenal to win and Both Teams to Score No a current 21/20 with Bet365 Sport, that looks a reasonable bet.
On the other hand if you fancy a correct score bet, then you can get 7/1 on a 3-0 win for the Gunners again with Bet365.
Sunday 19th April – Wembley Stadium – Aston Villa v Liverpool
The second semi-final takes place 24-hours after the first and features two Premier League sides for whom the FA Cup could rescue an otherwise disappointing season.
For Liverpool, a slow start to the campaign damaged their hopes of improving on last year’s second place in the League and a disappointing Champions League campaign didn’t help matters. The loss of Luis Suarez clearly impacted on the Reds who have struggled for goals all season long. They did hit a purple patch, not losing in 13 league games until recent defeats by Manchester United and Arsenal brought the Reds back down to earth with a bump.
Aston Villa have struggled for goals and form all season long and in the end, desperate league form and the threat of relegation saw manager Paul Lambert sacked and Tim Sherwood appointed in his place. Since coming into the club Sherwood has overseen a solid improvement in performances culminating in last week’s superb 1-0 win at Sherwood’s former club Tottenham.
That win eased Villa’s relegation worries and while the Villains are not yet safe, it does mean that they can fully focus on the weekend’s FA Cup tie, rather than having one eye on league results.
For Liverpool fans, getting captain Steven Gerrard to Wembley to lift the FA Cup has long been an ambition and with the red’s skipper due back from suspension, he may yet play a part with several players ruled out for Liverpool either through injury or suspension.
Liverpool won’t worry unduly about being away from Anfield, all four of their victories in this season’s FA Cup have come on the road, with two draws at Anfield.
Aston Villa v Liverpool tips
Bet365 currently have Liverpool as the 8/13 favourites for this match with Aston Villa the outsiders at 9/2. Those prices may accurately reflect the league positions of the two teams but in terms of recent form, they are slightly short on Liverpool and perhaps a tad long on Villa.
Both teams have struggled for goals at times this season, so I think the Under 2.5 Goals at 19/20 with Bet365 is a good value bet.
Finally, if you are looking for a correct score bet, you can get Liverpool to win 2-0 at odds of 6/1 while if you think Villa will steal it, a 1-0 win for the Villains pays out at a tempting 14/1.