Making case for Liverpool’s FA Cup exit far easier than Arsenal’s

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The FA Cup final most neutrals have in mind as the more attractive spectacle would be a clash between holders Arsenal and seven-time winners Liverpool.

The odds certainly seem to suggest outgoing Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard should be getting a crack at his perfect Wembley swansong, against the Gunners.

Liverpool are 2/7 shots to qualify when they take on Aston Villa, while the 1/9 on Arsene Wenger’s men implies Championship side Reading are merely makeweights.

Here’s the case for the underdogs and a potential windfall for those brave enough to back them:

Reading to qualify @ 5/1

Admittedly this is a tough sell. Reading haven’t won any of their five matches since beating Bradford in the FA Cup quarter finals and are yet to face Premier League opposition in the competition, while Arsenal not only play in a higher division, but have won eight games on the bounce.

Throw in that the Royals have conceded 33 goals across their last nine meetings with the Gunners and the chances of an upset at Wembley appear skinnier than slim.

However, there is hope for Reading to cling on to. Chelsea and Manchester City have both been dumped out by lower-league opposition in the competition, while Brighton were far from disgraced when losing 3-2 to Arsenal in round three.

Although Brighton got numbers behind the ball, they didn’t press with enough intent, which gave the Gunners too much room in possession and ultimately this is not a team to afford space.

Luckily, Reading have the players to remain compact in midfield and with Chelsea loanees Nathaniel Chalobah and Nathan Ake in central areas, the Berskhire outfit should have the positional discipline to protect the defence suitably.

Monaco have already proved at the Emirates in the Champions League that the Gunners can be frustrated by a robust and well-organised defensive unit. Reading may be lacking in class, but they can compete in terms of work-rate and organisation.

The likes of Hal Robson-Kanu and Jamie Mackie also have the attributes to be a threat on the counter attack, especially if isolating Per Mertesacker.

Aston Villa to qualify @ 12/5

The air of invincibility Liverpool had built up with their long mid-season unbeaten run evaporated courtesy of superior performances from Manchester United and Arsenal in the league recently.

That will have given Villa and their fans plenty of scope for encouragement. As will several other factors.

Sticking with Liverpool’s form, Brendan Rodgers’ men have laboured against teams from the second tier in the two previous rounds, requiring replays when facing Bolton and Blackburn.

While the men in claret and blue haven’t faced any of the recognised big guns to book their Wembley date, they’ve ejected Premier League opposition at the first time of asking in the fifth and sixth rounds.

Tim Sherwood’s appointment has created just the kind of galvanising effect it was designed to and this culminated in an away win at Tottenham prior to this, which has taken the relegation heat right off the midlands club.

Chief among the turnaround is the return to form of Christian Benteke, whose nine goals in his last eight appearances have set about restoring his folkhero status at Villa Park.

More good news then that the big Belgian, like Villa in general, relish upsetting the odds against the Reds.

The Villans have won two and drew one of their last three trips to Anfield, with Benteke on the scoresheet four times in five prior appearances home and away against Liverpool.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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