FA Cup final: Nothing to lose for revitalised Aston Villa

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Updated: May 30, 2015

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FA Cup final betting preview: Arsenal v Aston Villa, Wembley Stadium, London, England; Sunday, May 31, 2.30am

Just 14 weeks ago, Aston Villa’s season was on the ropes. They couldn’t buy a goal and seemed destined for the relegation that they’d successfully avoided in recent seasons. The club acted, sacking Paul Lambert for Tim Sherwood. Sometimes a change works, sometimes it doesn’t. Prior to Sherwood’s arrival, Aston Villa had mustered a mere 12 goals in 25 league games. They were more than three times as prolific under Sherwood, scoring 19 times in 13 matches (1.46 per game) to stave off the drop. Tonight, he could become only the second English manager in the past 20 years, after Harry Redknapp, to win the FA Cup. He may secure Aston Villa’s first trophy for almost two decades and, still more remarkably, their first FA Cup for 58 years.

 

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Yet he is a man whose managerial life spans just 43 games and around eight months over two clubs. He was the ideal remedy to the negativity, dourness and lack of ambition of Lambert’s Villa. Instead of being an isolated, impotent striker, Christian Benteke (pictured above) has become a goal-scoring machine once again. Ironically, Benteke’s success means this could be his final game for Villa as speculation continues to link him with a summer move. Shay Given is fit for Aston Villa’s first Cup final in 15 years after recovering from a groin injury. Aly Cissokho (groin), Kieran Richardson (calf) and Jores Okore (knee) also trained but Ciaran Clark (knee) is out.

In contrast, to Villa’s sparse success in recent times, Arsenal are the holders of the FA Cup, after beating Hull 3-2 at Wembley last May. They are the joint-most successful side in FA Cup history, having lifted the trophy 11 times – the same as Manchester United. It is their 19th FA Cup final – a record for any side. The last FA Cup meeting between these sides was in the fourth round in 2012, when Arsenal came back from two goals down to win 3-2 at the Emirates Stadium. If they triumph again this weekend, they will be only the eighth side to retain the FA Cup. Arsene Wenger (pictured below) ended his nine-year trophy drought in last season’s final.

 

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He is bidding to become the first manager in the post-War period to win six FA Cups, a feat matched by only George Ramsey, who won the last of his with Villa in 1920. Striker Danny Welbeck will miss the FA Cup final after failing to recover from a knee injury but Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Mathieu Debuchy (both hamstring) and captain Mikel Arteta (ankle) are in contention after returning to training. Arsenal absolutely demolished Aston Villa twice this season, winning 3-0 at Villa Park and 5-0 at the Emirates – but those matches were when Lambert was in charge. Wenger has stuck to a policy of playing his reserve goalkeeper in the cup so Wojceich Szczesny seems set to start.

 

bet365


Confirmed bets

Arsenal v Aston Villa – both teams to score (one unit @ $1.83)

Anytime goal scorer – Christian Benteke (one unit @ $2.90)

 

Most recent results: 2-0-0; +3.87 units; overall record: 12-1-6, +7.70 units

Aston Villa WIN v Liverpool (0.5 units @ $6.00) WIN (2-1)

Aston Villa v Liverpool +2.5 total (1.5 units @ $1.91) WIN (2-1)

• Selections are listed in three categories – 1) Suggested (likely bet but yet to be finalised); 2) Confirmed (locked in at the price listed); and 3) Leans (tips, but not recommended bets); all times quoted are Australian Eastern Time (AET); prices with thanks to Bet365 (except where markets are not available), correct at time of publication. Results/comments on today’s games/races will follow in the next post.

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