Arsenal vice-captain Per Mertesacker believes that the Gunners can handle the pressure of being the favourites when they take on Reading in the semi final of the FA Cup on Saturday, 18 April.

Arsene Wenger's men are looking to retain the trophy that they won last season when they beat Hull City 3-2 in the final. But they did not have a smooth run despite being favourites to clinch the cup, as they found themselves a goal down to Wigan Athletic in the semi finals with ten minutes left on the clock and again in the finals when Steve Bruce's men grabbed a shock 2-0 in the opening ten minutes.

The Germany international believes that the squad has learnt from last year's campaign and will be better prepared to handle the pressure this time around.

Mertesacker understands that no team can be fully prepared, but has backed his team to grow during the contest and is confident that their recent good run of form and the great atmosphere in the team will help them handle the "favourites" tag better this time around.

"We felt [pressure] last season a lot. No one expected us to lose, for Wigan to go through and that will be the case again. We are more prepared but you are never perfectly prepared," Mertesacker said, as quoted by the Mirror.

"There will be different situations and the team will have to grow in the match again, we will have to face the expectations and pressure."

"But with our level of confidence and with the team in good shape at the moment, I'm very confident. The energy is really great in the team, we have a fantastic squad and the most important thing is that feeling," the German World Cup winner added.