18th April, 2015; 17-20 GMT
Wembley Stadium, London
Reading will face Arsenal in the semifinal of the FA Cup at the Wembley stadium, and everyone involved will certainly have the 7-5 League Cup game that happened not too long ago between the two sides in mind. For Reading, the FA Cup is the only good thing to look forward to, with them battling at the wrong end of the Championship table. Upsetting the form team of the English Premier League would give their season a fillip and a Wembley final showdown is definitely an enticing enough reward to put their full effort in the game.
For Arsenal, the FA Cup will once again be the only possible silverware, even though there are still some fans with longing eyes towards the Premier League trophy and hoping that Chelsea somehow falter at the end. But realistically speaking, retaining the FA Cup and finishing second in the league would count as improvement over last season. The danger for the Arsenal players is complacency, and if they think that all they have to do to win the game is show up, then they will definitely be in for a rude shock.
Team News and Tactics
For Reading, the focus would be more on not to concede any goals and see if they can suck in the Arsenal attack and then score on the counter. Going toe to toe with Arsenal in the passing game may not be a great idea, and would most certainly play into their opponents hands, who are definitely more skilled to execute such a game plan. Steve Clarke will certainly set up the side in a 4-4-2 with the idea of having as many as possible behind the ball.
One of the strikers would definitely be Pavel Pogrebnyak, although he is still a doubtful starter. But if declared, he will certainly lineup alongside Cox as the two strikers. Even Nathaniel Chalobah is a doubt for the game and will have a late fitness test before they travel to Wembley.
Expected Line up: Federici; Obita, Pearce, Hector, Gunter; Robson-Kanu, Williams, Norwood, McCleary; Pogrebnyak, Cox
With Arsenal in the form of their lives, Arsene Wenger will not want to change a winning combination, barring the one change in goal, where Szczesny will most definitely come in for Ospina. Apart from that, there will be little change, with Ramsey set to continue in the right, the way he has been doing the past couple of games. Considering that it is Reading, Arsene may have been tempted to bring in the fringe players like Walcott, but it is highly unlikely he will tinker with the starting XI. Arsenal have had a weeka s rest since their last game, and will have another week before they face Chelsea in their next Premier League, so there is no need to worry about tiring legs for this game.
Since the stakes are very high, Arsene will definitely put out his strongest XI, with Ozil in the no. 10 role and Cazorla playing alongside Coquelin. Giroud will lead the line again, and hope to continue his goal scoring streak. Debuchy may still find himself out of the squad, as Bellerin hasna t done much wrong since deputizing in his absence.
Expected Line up: Szczesny; Monreal, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Bellerin; Coquelin, Cazorla; Sanchez, Ozil, Ramsey; Giroud
Player to watch out for
Olivier Giroud will be the player that will likely have the most impact in this game. Reading would mostly sit behind the ball and not leave any gaps for the Arsenal attackers to carve through, and in such situations, Girouda s hold up play and heading ability becomes all the more important. There will be more crosses from the touchline in this game, and Arsenal will hope that a couple of them will land nicely for Giroud to convert to goals.
For all the romance of the FA Cup, it is hard to see where Reading can outsmart Arsenal and cause an upset. With the kind of form Arsenal are in, they will possibly see this game off comfortably, with no 7-5 shenanigans that they had in the League Cup.
Predicted Score: Reading 1-3 Arsenal