Reading v Arsenal
Saturday 18th April, 17:20
Live on BBC 1
Reading are a largely terrible side in the league. Sat in 18th, they’ve semi-flirted with relegation here and there without being consistently bad enough to actually drop down a division, and results overall have been poor.
They go into this semi-final against Arsenal without a win in six games in the Championship, but a comprehensive win over perennial upsetters Bradford City and decent away results at Derby and Cardiff means that Steve Clarke’s side will fancy an upset in this one, despite the Premier League side’s recent run of form.
Arsenal come into this Wembley showpiece semi-final in absolutely outstanding nick – eight straight wins in the league has lifted them to second in the table, with a top four finish and yet another season in the Champions League all-but guaranteed. What’s more, Arsene Wenger’s men haven’t lost in this competition since February 2013.
With an array of attacking starlets to call on, a new-found solidity in defence and full of confidence, the Gunners are a serious proposition in the cup, and shouldn’t even really need to be at full-power to get past Saturday’s opposition. That said, the FA Cup rarely works out like that and Wenger will be keen to avoid any feelings of complacency among his group.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is the only player definitely missing through injury for the cup holders, while Mikel Arteta remains doubtful.
Arsenal will clearly start as huge favourites for this game – they currently sit at just [1.26] and it’s easy to see why. Reading are in no sort of form, aren’t anywhere near the standard of Arsenal and are essentially working towards a huge upset to get something out of this game. I can see them making it tough for Wenger’s men, especially early on, but I don’t expect them to win, certainly not inside 90 minutes and for that reason I have no interest in putting up a back of them, even at the inflated price of [16.0].
The Draw currently trades at [6.4] – and that may well be an angle if you can see the Royals keeping Arsenal at bay for a while. Don’t forget, you only need to get to 90 minutes to get a pay out and if Reading can get into the break at 0-0 there may be a decent angle to Cash Out.
Over/Under 2.5 Goals
The three most recent meetings between these two sides have garnered a staggering 24 goals and that probably goes some way towards explaining why Overs is only [1.62]. I think there is some mileage in backing Unders here though – Reading have only conceded three goals in their last four games and, with discipline and hard work, could perhaps keep Arsenal at bay for at least a while.
Semi-finals are all about getting the job done, and a 1-0 or 2-0 win for the Gunners is easily imaginable. For that reason, around [2.6] on Unders is the call.
I like this market in these types of games – high stakes, difference in quality between the teams etc. Arsenal have a lot of pacey, tricky players and are likely to have the lion’s share of possession around the Reading penalty area. For that reason, the [3.8]-[4.0] on offer on a penalty being awarded and taken in this game is good value.
Back Under 2.5 Goals at [2.6] or better
Back Yes in Penalty Taken? market at [3.8] or better