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Old masters meet new FA Cup kings in fitting final

Arsenal and Aston Villa will meet in the showpiece game for the first time.

FILE: Arsenal’s French striker Olivier Giroud celebrates scoring his 1-0 during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and West Ham United at The Emirates Stadium in London on March 14, 2015. Picture: AFP

LONDON - Old masters Aston Villa will play holders Arsenal, the modern kings of the FA Cup, at Wembley next month in the finale of one of the most exciting competitions for years.

The clubs, who have now reached 30 finals between them, will meet in the showpiece game for the first time when Arsenal, taking part in a record 19th final, will aim to become the record winners with a 12th success.

Villa held that honour when they beat Manchester United 2-1 in 1957 to win the Cup for a then-record seventh time.

In the 58 years since they have only appeared in one final, losing to Chelsea in 2000, while Arsenal have played in 12 and won eight.

The contrast between the clubs is not only confined to the pages of history. Arsenal's Arsene Wenger, who has been in the job for nearly 19 years, could become the most successful manager in the competition's history with a sixth triumph.

Tim Sherwood, on the other hand, has been in charge of Villa for just two months.

He won the Premier League title as a player with Blackburn Rovers but never played in an FA Cup final and he could not hide his delight after the 2-1 semi-final win over Liverpool on Sunday which he celebrated wildly with the Villa fans.

Wenger, whose team rode their luck to beat Championship side Reading 2-1 after extra time on Saturday, had seen it all before.

The Frenchman looked more relieved than elated that Arsenal had beaten Reading without needing penalties as they did in last year's semi when they overcame Championship side Wigan Athletic after a shootout.

"It was comparable to what we faced against Wigan," Wenger told reporters. "But it was a big improvement because we needed penalties last year."

Unlike Wenger, Sherwood wears his heart firmly on his sleeve. "I watched Arsene yesterday and saw how calm he was," he said. "Like me, he knows nothing has been won yet, but I am sorry I can't be like Arsene Wenger was after the final whistle. I was just delighted and my emotions spilled out.

"We still have a lot of work to do in the league to be safe and will be the underdogs against Arsenal, they are the holders and want to retain it.

"It's on the back-burner for us for now but I can't wait."