Wigan gear up to defend the FA Cup

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 semifinals at Wembley tomorrow.

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 semifinals at Wembley tomorrow.

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

Sheffield, 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 Sheffield's form has improved after a slow start.

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

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

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. "Sheffield United have had a remarkable run. They have beaten two Premier League teams along the way," Steve Bruce, the Hull manager, said.

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.

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