As thousands of fans descend Wembley Way for this weekend’s FA Cup semi-finals, Football Fancast try to pick out the best value bets from the two showpiece games.
Reading v Arsenal
Despite the Royals run to the last four of the FA Cup, this season has been one of immense disappointment for Steve Clarke’s men. One of the early season favourites for promotion, they sit only eight points off the relegation zone. If it wasn’t for the respite of the domestic cup competition there would have been little to shout about at the Madejski this term.
In their last 10 league outings they have managed only a solitary victory, conceding at least one in nine of those fixtures.
Compare that to the form of their illustrious opponents and it really does highlight the task that the Championship side face. Arsenal have won all but one of their last 10 fixtures and have managed to bring themselves to the edge of the title race. They are in undoubtedly their best run of form of the season and as winning the Premier League seems a bridge too far, retaining this trophy will be their number one objective from now till the end of the season.
Reading manager Steve Clarke has suggested his team need to be perfect to have any success at all come Saturday evening. However, even a perfect display for Reading would still leave them well short of their opponents, currently one of the form sides in European football. Unfortunately for Reading, their Wembley day out could have a sour ending.
Back Arsenal to win -2 @ 7/4
Liverpool v Aston Villa
Sunday’s semi-final is definitely a more difficult one to call as Tim Sherwood seems to really be getting the best out of his struggling Villa side. Their away win over Tottenham last weekend all but quashed their fears of relegation and will leave them full of confidence for their date with Liverpool in the capital.
Although results are still not perfect at Villa Park, they seem to have finally realised that football is about scoring goals and have managed 12 in their last eight league outings, matching their total from the previous 25.
Their opponents Liverpool are still on the coat tails of the top four and need to keep winning in order to keep their Champions League dream alive. Their form has been impressive, their only defeats coming to those above them in the league so they will rightly feel confident going into this clash with lowly Villa.
In terms of the league fixtures between the two, both sides have managed one victory each. Villa secured all three points during their superb start to the season, whereas Rodgers men dispatched easily of their opponents in the most recent clash.
With Villa finally being able to hit the back of the net, matched with both team’s suspect defences, expect this one to have goals. However, the forward prowess of Liverpool, particularly the superb Coutinho and the always dangerous Sterling, will prove too much for the team from Birmingham.
Back Liverpool to win and over 2.5 goals @ 11/8
A £10 double on the selections will return, on average, £65.