It is often stated that the magic has disappeared from the FA Cup, but such cynicism will surely be lost on the thousands of football fans who will make journeys of varying distances to Wembley Stadium this weekend. The decision to host the final-four matches in the capital at England’s premier venue will also be debated, but there can be no denying the sense of occasion that the national stadium adds to the event.

The first semi-final, between Arsenal and this year’s surprise package Reading; will take place on Saturday, April 18. No one is giving Steve Clarke’s team much of a chance against the in-form Gunners and the Reading fans will be travelling along the M4 with hope rather than genuine belief. The Royals have won just one of their last ten league games and are currently languishing in 18th place in the league. With an eight point gap to the relegation zone, they should be safe from the drop but it cannot be denied that their cup run has coincided with their dip in Championship form.

Their opponents also happen to be the defending champions and Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger will be keen to prove that last year’s drought-ending trophy was not just a one-off. The team from North London are also favourites to win the competition, ahead of Liverpool whom they brushed aside in the league recently.

With the pressure and expectancy on Arsenal, Reading will feel they have nothing to lose and the game could be frantic in the early stages. The millions of neutrals watching on TV will certainly be hoping that they give it a good go. But with a fresh piece of silverware in the trophy cabinet, Arsenal can approach the game without the desperation that plagued them in the latter stages last year.

While Reading have struggled in the league during their cup run, Arsenal have flourished and now sit in second-place behind runaway leaders Chelsea having won seven games in a row in all competitions. They could be further boosted by the return of Jack Wilshere for the Wembley showdown. With such form and confidence in the red and white camp, any other prediction than a win for Wenger’s men is just fanciful.

You won’t get many favours from the bookies if you want to back a straight Arsenal win, so it might be worth looking at some alternative markets. You can just about get evens by backing the Gunner to Win to Nil or you can get 8/11 on Arsenal with Bet365 in the -1 handicap market.

Olivier Giroud has already scored eight goals in 2015 and will be the favourite to break the deadlock on Saturday. You can back him to score first at 3/1 with Bet365.

Prediction: Arsenal to win by two or more; Oliver Giroud to score first.

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