Wigan has Arsenal in their sights

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AP

FA Cup holders Wigan Athletic will aim to cause another seismic upset when they face Arsenal in the first of two intriguing semi-finals at Wembley. Photoby: Jon Super. File picture.

London - FA Cup holders Wigan Athletic will aim to cause another seismic upset after last season's triumph over Manchester City when they face Arsenal in the first of two intriguing semi-finals at Wembley on Saturday.

Hull City, who have never reached the final and whose only semi-final appearance came 85 years ago, take on once-powerful Sheffield United in the second match on Sunday.

United, FA Cup winners four times between 1899 and 1925, are bidding to become the first club from the third tier to reach the final.

While their Premier League status means Arsenal, the 10-times FA Cup winners, and Hull start as favourites, neither Wigan or United are likely to be easy fodder.

Wigan are challenging for promotion after last season's unwanted double when they became the first club to win the FA Cup and suffer relegation from the top-flight in the same season, while United's form has improved after a slow start.

The Shefiield club beat Premier League Fulham and Aston Villa and second-tier Nottingham Forest and Charlton Athletic on their way to the semi-final.

Both matches will mark the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster, when 96 fans were killed at the 1989 semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at Sheffield Wednesday's ground.

That match was abandoned after six minutes and the weekend games will start at seven minutes past the hour following a minute's silence before the kickoffs.

If Wigan and Sheffield United progress, the FA Cup final would be the first since the introduction of the Football League's second division 122 years ago not to feature a top tier club.

The romance of the occasion was not lost on Hull manager Steve Bruce, an FA Cup winner with Manchester United in 1990 and 1994, who told Talksport Radio on Wednesday that form counts for nothing at this stage of the competition.

“Sheffield United have had a remarkable run. They have beaten two Premier League teams along the way,” he said.

“A semi-final is something to look forward to but you have to perform on the day and form goes out of the window.

“But a little bit of the glamour has come back to the FA Cup with teams like Hull, Sheffield United, Wigan and the mighty Arsenal still there.

“The FA Cup has been flailing over the last few years but these semi-finals bring the romance back to the whole thing.”

Hull lost their previous semi-final appearance in 1930 to eventual-winners Arsenal after a replay.

Arsenal's last trophy was the 2005 FA Cup and manager Arsene Wenger, a four-time winner, will be desperate to end that drought and rebuild the fragile confidence of his side.

The Gunners have won only twice in their last nine league matches, dropping to fourth after having led for much of the season, and they are even in danger of missing out on the Champions League next season for the first time under Wenger.

The Frenchman will hope fit-again Welsh midfielder Aaron Ramsey, who was on top form earlier in the season, can provide the spark they lacked in a 3-0 mauling at Everton on Sunday.

However, Wigan will not be overawed by Arsenal's reputation and, although in a lower division, are probably in better shape than last May when they beat hot favourites City 1-0 after Ben Watson's late goal produced the biggest final shock for years.

Wigan have blossomed under new manager Uwe Rosler and provided a sucker-punch against City for the second time in March when they beat them 2-1 at the Etihad Stadium in the quarter-finals.

Wigan lost for the second time in 13 league matches in 1-0 home reverse by Millwall in the Championship on Tuesday, although Rosler made eight changes to his starting lineup ahead of Saturday's clash.

Hull have had a good season back in the Premier League after a three-year absence and will fancy their chances of a first final appearance when they play United.

The Blades were one of the dominant forces in England in the late 19th and early 20th centuries but their last FA Cup final appearance was the 1936 defeat to Arsenal.

After being relegated from the Premier League in 2007, the Sheffield club have been in the third tier for three seasons where they currently sit 11th in the table. – Reuters


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