With 14 Premier League clubs facing lower-league opposition in the FA Cup third round this weekend, a host of players from the Championship and below will be hoping to make an impact.
A shock winner in a ‘giant killing’ can help write your name into FA Cup folklore, but a standout performance can also attract interest from clubs in a higher tier.
Here, we look at five players who could have a huge influence in the weekend’s biggest upsets.
Devante Cole – FLEETWOOD TOWN v Leicester
The main narrative around this third-round meeting is Jamie Vardy’s return to Fleetwood, with the striker having helped the Cod Army secure Football League status for the first time when scoring 34 goals in the 2011-12 season.
It secured a move to Leicester in the process, but now, in a year where Vardy is expected to cap off his remarkable rise when featuring for England at a World Cup, could he first be outshone by Devante Cole at Highbury Stadium?
The 22-year-old forward, son of former Newcastle and Manchester United striker Andrew Cole, is leading the way for Fleetwood this season, with 12 goals and three assists in all competitions.
Cole has already scored twice in the FA Cup season, netting the leveller against Chorley en route to a 2-1 victory in the first round, before equalising once more in the 1-1 draw with Hereford, which then saw Fleetwood win the second-round replay 2-0.
In a season where the Manchester City graduate has already produced his best return in terms of goals, Cole will be eager to show potential suitors that he is a striker on the up.
Danny Hylton – LUTON TOWN v Newcastle
With Newcastle struggling in the Premier League, Luton Town will enter Saturday’s encounter confident of an upset.
The club are flying high in League Two, holding a four-point lead at the top and a strong 11-point gap above the nearest play-off spot.
An 8-2 opening day victory over Yeovil Town set the tone for Luton in front of goal this season, and while Hylton was absent for that game, he has since become the league’s top scorer on 15 goals.
The 28-year-old netted a hat-trick in the 7-0 win over Cambridge, a double in the 7-1 win over Stevenage, and once in the 5-0 Boxing Day victory at Swindon Town.
Matej Vydra – Manchester United v DERBY COUNTY
Out of the 30 players with six or more goals in the Championship, Matej Vydra tops the bill in terms of minutes per goal.
His 14 goals have come at a rate of one every 105 minutes, mainly down to the fact that he has completed just two full matches this season.
But while the striker is struggling to finish games, he is starting them with a bang, netting 10 of those 14 goals in the first half.
Five penalties have assisted Vydra in becoming the league’s second-top goalscorer, and should the referee hand the visitors a penalty at Old Trafford on Friday, the 25-year-old will be the obvious choice to turn to.
James Maddison – NORWICH CITY v Chelsea
James Maddison’s stock continues to rise at Norwich. The attacking midfielder is a popular figure at Carrow Road, picking up their Player of the Month award on the past three occasions.
After loan spells at Coventry City and Aberdeen, 21-year-old Maddison has become a regular at Norwich, penning a four-year deal in the summer before going on to make his England U21 debut against Ukraine in November.
And while he will hope to add to his England caps in 2018, he will first look to play a major part in dumping out last year’s losing finalists Chelsea.
Norwich came agonisingly close to knocking Arsenal out of the League Cup, with Maddison providing the assist for Josh Murphy before Eddie Nketiah turned the game on its head, and the Canaries will be hoping to right the wrongs of that painful defeat when facing another giant.
And with seven goals and five assists to his name this season, Maddison is the man Norwich will turn to in a hope that this Goliath can be beaten.
Jack Marriott – Aston Villa v PETERBOROUGH
Though Aston Villa are no longer a Premier League side, it would still be a huge scalp if Peterborough can leave Villa Park with victory.
Only Harry Kane has scored more league goals (17) than Jack Marriott in the top-four tiers this season, and the 23-year-old’s 17-goal haul so far this campaign has been largely helped by a recent hot streak in League One.
Marriott has netted five league goals in his last six games, while that run also featured a double in the FA Cup second-round replay against Woking FC.
He’s a man very much in form, and after securing their spot in the third round, the striker will be dreaming of reaching the fourth round and beyond.
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