Championship strugglers Reading stand between holders Arsenal and a place in yet another FA Cup final as the two sides contest the first of the weekend’s two ties on Saturday.
The Royals have saved their best performances this season for this competition, but this is the first time they have come against Premier League opponents during this run, having seen off second tier rivals Huddersfield Town, Cardiff City and Derby County, as well as ending the run of League One Bradford City.
Realistically, it is hard to see them winning this, but Steve Clarke and his side can draw inspiration from the manner in which Wigan Athletic frustrated Arsenal at this stage last season. The main difference, however, is that the Londoners come into this in much better form than they were in a year ago, when Champions League qualification looked far from a formality.
With eight consecutive Premier League wins, Arsenal could not be playing any better at present, although they had to come through a tough test at Burnley last time out. They are now favourites to win the FA Cup for a record 12th time, and success at Manchester United in the quarter-final demonstrated their hunger to reach that milestone.
Reading’s biggest threat will come through hardworking duo Hal Robson-Kanu and Jamie Mackie, while a young defence will have to cope with the threat of Olivier Giroud and Alexis Sanchez among others. Unlike in 2014, the Gunners will be keen to have this one done without extra time and penalties.
Jack Wilshere should make his Arsenal comeback, with Mathieu Debuchy and Abou Diaby returning to contention. Oliver Norwood and Aiyegbeni Yakubu could earn recalls for Reading.
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