Reading vs. Arsenal: FA Cup Semi-Final Preview

Reading face the daunting but exciting task of hosting the Premier League’s form side and competition Champions, Arsenal, as the pair meet for the FA Cup Semi-Final.

The Gunners have won their last eight Premier League games and Arsene Wenger’s side will be expected to extend their fine run of results against a Reading side languishing just four places away from the Championship relegation zone.

Twelve months ago, Arsenal faced another Championship club, Wigan, in this stage of the competition. With eight minutes remaining, they were heading out but managed to equalise before eventually progressing on penalties. This time around, they face similar opposition in Reading, in what will be the Berkshire club’s first FA Cup Semi-Final since 1927.

Team news

Reading will be without on-loan duo Nathan Ake and Kwesi Appiah, who are cup-tied. However, fellow loanees Nathaniel Chalobah and Jamie Mackie can play.

Pavel Pogrebnyak, who missed his sides 1-0 loss to Bournemouth on Tuesday, is expected to return to the Royals side after overcoming a calf complaint.

Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere could make his first appearance after recovering from an ankle problem.


But, Mikel Arteta and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are still not fit. Wojciech Szczesny is set to start in goal, while Danny Welbeck and Theo Walcott are also pressing for a starting place.

France defender Mathieu Debuchy may be included in the squad, having been out since January after needing shoulder surgery.

Match facts

Reading boss Steve Clarke is probably correct when he said that his side will need to play “the perfect game” to win on Saturday. His team have played the Gunners 12 times before in their history, with Arsenal winning every encounter, scoring an average of over three goals a game.

The most recent of these meetings was a thrilling League Cup tie last season, in which Arsenal fought back incredibly from 4-0 down to progress 7-5.

In the Championship, Reading have not won in their last six and have just two wins in their last 13 league games.

In contrast, Arsenal are the Premier League’s most in-form side and still have an outside chance of challenging Chelsea for the title should they beat Jose Mourinho’s men when the two sides play later this month.

Reading should by no means be taken lightly, though. In the pugnacious Pavel Pogrebnyak and strike partner Jamie Mackie they have strikers who are a handful for most defences. Not to mention the possibility of the veteran forward Yakubu making an appearance. Jordan Obita and Michael Hector have shown their defensive ability and the shielding presence of Nathaniel Chalobah, on loan from Chelsea, is a key figure in midfield. Garath McCleary and former Arsenal trainee Hal Robson-Kanu pose a threat from out wide.

Steve Clarke’s side have not yet faced Premier League opponents in the competition, but have picked up three impressive away wins against Huddersfield, Cardiff and Derby, before beating Bradford 3-0 in the fifth round replay.

Arsenal have had a somewhat tricker path to the Semi-Final, having to overcome the likes of Manchester United and Hull City, in what was a repeat fixture of the FA Cup’s final last season.

The Gunners will have one eye on the final once more when they take on Reading at Wembley on Saturday, but if the Royals put on anything like the show they did against Wenger’s team last season, it will make for an enthralling clash.

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