Gunners are overwhelming favourites to lift the cup again

Arsenal and Aston Villa will do battle for the FA Cup this weekend
Arsenal and Aston Villa will do battle for the FA Cup this weekend

FA Cup final shocks have been conspicuous by their absence in recent years.

Although Wigan deservedly overhauled Manchester City a couple of seasons ago, the last time there was a genuine upset was in 1988, when Wimbledon beat Liverpool 1-0.

Considering this history, it’s no surprise to see Arsenal installed as Skybet’s overwhelming 4/7 favourites to defeat Aston Villa in normal time to retain the trophy they scrambled to win last season.

Yet perhaps that result offers a warning for the Gunners, who just about managed to shed their complacency to beat Hull City at Wembley 12 months ago; if Tim Sherwood’s men, offered at 6/1 by BetVictor to prevai inside 90 minutes, can be more defiant than the Tigers, a shock to match Wigan in 2013 and Wimbledon 27 years ago isn’t out of the question.

Bet365 meanwhile mark 31/10 against the contest requiring extra-time and punters wary of an inconclusive affair might wish to back one of the teams to pick up the treasured silverware by any means.

The north London outfit are just 3/10 ( to lift the famous pot for the second consecutive season and Stan James make the Villans 14/5 to do likewise.

A close encounter certainly seems statistically likely given that none of the last 10 finals have produced more than a one-goal margin of victory and that in itself suggests the odds are a touch lop-sided.

It also strengthens the case for a stalemate, as well as Ladbrokes’ 9/2 about a score draw and a 2-2 scoreline at 18/1 via bet365.

Moreover, as there’s set to be little between the sides, Villa are the value pick at 9/2 in BetVictor’s ‘Draw No Bet’ market and betway give them a goal start in the handicaps at a generous 6/4.

The pair’s last 11 meetings (which includes one FA Cup tie) have yielded 38 goals, which adds plenty of appeal to both William Hill’s 10/11 for Saturday’s contest to produce more than 2.5 goals and Stan James’ identical 10/11 about both teams finding the net.

Subequently, correct score punters could do worse than opt for a speculative flutter on Sherwood’s charges, at 20/1 (BetVictor), to edge it 2-1 (the same scoreline in favour of Arsenal is a 15/2 chance at Stan James) and bet365 price the mouth watering showdown at 7/5 to be all-square at the interval.

In attack finally, the Gunners’ French frontman Olivier Giroud is bet365’s 9/2 jolly to break the Wembley deadlock but there’s understandably been money for Christian Benteke at the other end, he’s already been backed in to 15/2 at Paddy Power to notch first and the Belgian striker is 3/1 (bet365) to get on the scoresheet at any time.

For the fourth time in six years, there’ll be no Old Firm representative in the Scottish Cup Final although, as the finalists are separated by a division, one team, Inverness, are understandably considered William Hill’s emphatic 6/10 favourites to lift a trophy they have never won.

Falkirk, who have won the Cup twice, most recently in 1957, are offered at an incredible 9/2 by Skybet to win inside 90 minutes, while bet365 offer the draw at 10/3.

The pair have not met since they both occupied a top-flight berth in 2008-09 when Falkirk won five of their six contests and though most punters are correct to assume that this will have little bearing on Saturday’s outcome, it promises to be tight, a suspicion which adds plenty of appeal to Ladbrokes’ 19/20 for Saturday’s contest to produce fewer than 2.5 goals.

Only once in the last six finals have both teams scored, a statistic which enhances the attraction of BetVictor’s 6/1 for Inverness to win 2-0 while Stan James price the Championship side at 12/1 to win 1-0.

This weekend’s Aviva Premiership final has the bookies scratching their heads as they struggle to separate Bath and Saracens.

Many firms rate both sides at 10/11 to emerge triumphant at Twickenham but William Hill lean towards Bath, chalking them up at 10/11 and pricing Sarries at a generous 11/10, odds shrewd punters will take advantage of after the slight underdogs edged out regular season table toppers Northampton in the semi-final.

BetVictor, meanwhile, give Saracens a one-point start at 5/6.

Switching codes to Rugby League and the pick of the wagers across Magic Weekend is Ladbrokes’s 10/11 for Leeds to defeat Wigan by more than two points at St James’s Park.

Bet of the week: Christian Benteke to score at any time in the FA Cup final – 3/1 (bet365).

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