Arsenal are huge favorites to retain the FA Cup title. Will they be riding open-bus at the weekend in celebration or can Aston Villa etch their name on the cup and hijack the bus? Find out as we preview this highly anticipated showdown and serve up our soccer picks.
Arsenal Huge Faves
Arsenal enter FA Cup betting markets as the -200 favorites to retain the title on the lush Wembley field at the weekend, but there are those soccer bettors that feel Aston Villa, matched at whopping +550 soccer odds are worthy underdogs after they eliminated Liverpool in the semis to book their spot opposite Arsenal. That they could realistically stand in the way of Arsenal climbing the hallowed steps at Wembley for a second consecutive year.
Aston Villa came from behind to win 2-1 to send Liverpool packing out of the FA Cup and spoil the hoped for farewell party for Stevie G. at Wembley, which almost surely would have dominated the narrative – before, during and after the game. To the point of almost overshadowing the match itself perhaps.
On paper, Arsenal didn't have a tough opponent in second-tier Reading. But the Championship side punched above their weight class as they took the Gunners into extra time. Had it not been for the Chilean superstar Alexis Sanchez and his singular effort to score both goals, Reading might have pulled off the upset. So solid was their goalkeeper Adam Federici, the Gunners were visibly frustrated throughout the game, wondering why it wasn't going more easily. And to be fair, it was a bit of a lucky goal that skipped by Federici in the 105th minute of the match.
Sherwood's Aston Villa
Saturday's highly anticipated date is fast approaching and it should be a right cracker. Although Arsenal did pummel the Claret and Blue (suppose it' worth taking stock of) earlier this season at the Emirates in a 5-0 win, the Villans are barely recognisable now that they are stewarded by Tim Sherwood. That 5-0 drumming was before the club hired him.
Since Sherwood's arrival, there have been lots of positive changes but most importantly he rescued the Villans from the perilous trail they had been traversing, which would have most certainly led them up the garden path and into second-tier obscurity, and sent them instead safely into another Premier League season and – most improbably of all – into the FA Cup final. Their first ever final in 15 years.
Villa's finish to the season was an education in the art of flirtation a coquettish burlesque dancer would appreciate. The 6-1 evisceration they suffered at Southampton in the penultimate round of Premier League betting must have given Villa fans apoplexy one and all. And the devil-may-care 1-0 loss to Burnley in the ultimate round was perhaps taking the flirtation with relegation one step too far. Somehow all the agony they shamelessly put their fans through in the last two rounds worked out in their favor though, prompting some to herald Sherwood a genius.
Arsenal's finish was similar to that of their previous seasons over the last decade. Top 4 berth with Champions League action secured for the next season. A similarity they share with the last season is that they've reached the FA Cup final and, once again, will face a seemingly lesser opponent in their pursuit of elusive silverware. In 2014, it was Hull City that stood opposite the Gunners on the luscious lawns of Wembley. And they gave as good as they got, if not better. Arsenal had to come back from two goals down to win in extra half time and clinch their first piece of silver in almost a decade.
FA Cup Final Betting Verdict
On paper, this would appear to be a straightforward clash between an established heavyweight in England's top flight and a regular delinquent (at least in recent seasons). Hence, the rather lopsided soccer betting outlook on the FA Cup odds board. But soccer fans would be remiss to overlook Aston Villa, especially with the savvy Tim Sherwood at the helm now. Don't be rope-a-doped by their form to finish the season either. Last year, Hull City were also flirting with relegation only to emerge in the final and go toe-to-toe with the Gunners. That's the thing with these sort of competitions, they nullify all else and render any perceived measure a moot point simply because it's an entirely different ball game. Arsenal may be the solid favorites for good reason, with the better (pricier) more talent (better looking) and sensationally skillful soccer baubles. A win by Arsenal is a reasonable soccer pick. Definitely, it's the popular soccer pick, which is underscored by a recent list of FA Cup champions that includes Chelsea, Man City, Man United and Liverpool, mostly lauding it over weaker opponents.
But bold and brave soccer fans taking a chance on Aston Villa at +550 Premier League soccer odds may have the last laugh. It wasn't too long ago (2012-2013) that Wigan Athletic hoisted the FA Cup after pulling the momentous upset at Wembley, beating Man City 1-0.
Soccer Picks: Aston Villa +550. What they say, we're feeling brave.