FA Cup preview: Wembley trips on the line as Man United, Arsenal, Liverpool shoot for semis


Once you reach the quarterfinal round of any cup competition — particularly a competition which began with 736 teams — the dream of lifting the Cup becomes more reality than fairy tale, no matter the size of the club. As one of the final eight contestants, anything can happen.

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All of eight of the 2014-15 FA Cup’s quarterfinalists will feel this way, all the way from Premier League giants Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool, down to League 1 side Bradford, as they battle this weekend for a place in the semifinals at Wembley Stadium.

Arsenal’s trip to Old Trafford in unquestionably the tie of the round, and because of its grandeur, we’re forced to wait until Monday (3:45 pm ET) to watch the Premier League giants, combined winners of 22 FA Cups, face off.

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When they do, Arsenal will once again be without Jack Wilshere, Mathieu Flamini, Mathieu Debuchy, Mikel Arteta and recent injuree Gabriel Paulista, while Louis van Gaal is expected to have a full-strength squad available, with the exception of Robin van Persie, who could be out until April.

Elsewhere, Liverpool host Championship side Blackburn Rovers at Anfield on Sunday (12 pm ET) as Brendan Rodgers chases his first Liverpool trophy, the club’s first FA Cup since 2006. Rodgers could see as many as seven first-team players unavailable on Sunday, as Steven Gerrard, Lucas Leiva, Glen Johnson, Brad Jones, Jon Flanagan, Jordon Ibe and Mamadou Sakho all have varying degrees of injury concerns.

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Aston Villa topped Midlands rivals West Bromwich Albion in late, dramatic fashion on Tuesday to give Tim Sherwood his first league victory since moving to Villa Park. Fast forward four days and the Villans get another crack at West Brom with a trip to Wembley on the line. Sherwood has an injury crisis on his hands as six first-team defenders are either out or facing late fitness tests ahead of Saturday (12:30 pm ET).

After knocking off Chelsea in the fourth round, followed by Sunderland in the round of 16, Bradford have claimed darling status of this year’s FA Cup. With a home date against Championship side Reading (Saturday, 7:45 am ET), many are backing the smallest remaining side to book a semifinals place against one of the Premier League giants. It would be Bradford’s second Cup semifinals in three years after advancing all the way to the 2012-13 League Cup with victories over Arsenal and Villa along the way.