FA Cup preview: Four storylines heading into the semifinals
England’s several divisions have seasons coming to a close as May approaches, and the FA Cup is also nearing its end, with four teams drawn into the final semifinal pool.
At Wembley, Arsenal will battle Reading on Saturday morning, while Liverpool will encounter Aston Villa the next day.
Below are four storylines to keep in mind during these matches.
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1. Repeat just around the bend for Arsene Wenger-- The last time Arsene Wenger won the FA Cup was not long ago, as the Gunners defeated Hull City, 3-2, in late May to secure the crown, and they will have another opportunity to compete in the final. Clicking at just the right time, Arsenal has currently won eight straight and many think Wenger’s run will continue against second-division Reading.
2. Underdog Reading aiming for history-- The year 1927 marks Reading FC’s farthest advancement in the tournament when the squad made it to the semifinals only to lose to Cardiff City, 3-0. If the Championship side can keep the scoreline close and be opportunistic late in the match, manager Steve Clarke could hand Reading its very first FA Cup final appearance.
3. Gerrard ready to play-- Steven Gerrard is a significant contributor to Liverpool in career-defining moments, and his three-game suspension has ended at the perfect moment. The midfielder will return to the pitch against Villa in a match that will hold great importance to him since he leaves for MLS in the summer. This could be his last chance to seize hardware as a Red.
4. Aston Villa eyeing Europa League-- Aston Villa is not a complete stranger to the prospect of Europa League competition. About five years ago, in the 2010-11 season, the Villans played Austrian team Rapid Vienna in a Europa League playoff but couldn’t escape with a victory. Not the biggest underdog or clear favorite, Villa could definitely muscle its way past Liverpool, who weren’t spectacular in a 1-0 quarterfinal win over Blackburn Rovers.