Edin Dzeko's recent form has seen him become a leading contender for the European Golden Shoe, but the Roma striker faces stiff competition from an esteemed list of forwards.
Heading into Roma's Coppa Italia clash at Lazio on Sky Sports this Wednesday, Dzeko has found the net 11 times in his last nine games.
Six of those have come in Serie A, placing him alongside Juventus' Gonzalo Higuain and Andrea Belotti of Torino as the league's top goalscorer on 19.
In the race for the European Golden Shoe, Dzeko currently sits third, besides Higuain, Belotti, Robert Lewandowski and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but crucially, behind Lionel Messi and Edinson Cavani.
2016-17 European Golden Shoe current standings
|Lionel Messi||Barcelona||La Liga||20 (40)|
|Edinson Cavani||PSG||Ligue 1||26 (39)|
|Robert Lewandowski||Bayern Munich||Bundesliga||19 (38)|
|Edin Dzeko||Roma||Serie A||19 (38)|
|Gonzalo Higuain||Juventus||Serie A||19 (38)|
|Andrea Belotti||Torino||Serie A||19 (38)|
|P.E. Aubameyang||B Dortmund||Bundesliga||19 (38)|
|Luis Suarez||Barcelona||La Liga||18 (36)|
|Bas Dost||Sporting CP||Primeira Liga||18 (36)|
With such esteemed company surrounding Dzeko, we examine the challenges the former Manchester City forward faces if he wants to be recognised as Europe's sharpest shooter in three months' time.
Ending La Liga's dominance
Current leader Messi has not won the award since 2012-13, but it has been picked up by a La Liga player in every season since 2008-09 - though it was shared between Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Suarez when the latter was at Liverpool in 2013-14.
The usual suspects have picked up the prize in recent years - at an average rate of 40 goals since 2008 - but it was Diego Forlan who kick-started the league's supremacy when he netted 32 times while playing alongside Sergio Aguero - who scored 17.
European Golden Shoe winners since 2008-09
|2008-09||Diego Forlan (Atletico)||La Liga||32 (64)|
|2009-10||Lionel Messi (Barcelona)||La Liga||34 (68)|
|2010-11||Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)||La Liga||40 (80)|
|2011-12||Lionel Messi (Barcelona)||La Liga||50 (100)|
|2012-13||Lionel Messi (Barcelona)||La Liga||46 (92)|
|2013-14||Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)||La Liga||31 (62)|
|Luis Suarez (Liverpool)||Premier League||31 (62)|
|2014-15||Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)||La Liga||48 (96)|
|2015-16||Luis Suarez (Barcelona)||La Liga||40 (80)|
Dzeko clearly faces an uphill task to buck the trend. The Bosnian is a goal behind Messi and one ahead of Suarez, while Ronaldo's haul of 15 could easily jump up another five in a matter of weeks.
The alarming rate at which La Liga's strikers have been scoring means Dzeko can ill-afford a drop of form in front of goal if he wants to end the league's stranglehold. The 40-mark may seem beyond reach, but a season-ending tally in the mid-30s could just be enough.
Cavani defying the odds
With Ligue 1 outside Europe's top five leagues - the current season being determined by the UEFA coefficients for 2016 - Cavani sits only second in the standings despite scoring 26 goals.
Cavani is Europe's top goalscorer across all the top tiers, but his tally is only multiplied by a factor of 1.5 as opposed to the factor of two applied to La Liga, Bundesliga, Premier League, Seria A and Primeira Liga.
The Uruguayan must therefore defy the odds to leapfrog Messi into first, but given the rate he has been scoring in France, it's not out of the question.
To date, Henrik Larsson is the only player to achieve this feat since the points system was introduced in 1996 - his 35 goals for Celtic in the 2000-01 season was enough to claim the award.
With Ligue 1 set to rejoin the top five leagues next season, a repeat of Cavani's performances next year would surely make him favourite, while his blistering form so far could yet see him follow in Larsson's footsteps come May.
What about Premier League players?
The Premier League's top-scoring trio of Harry Kane, Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku sit on 34 points having scoring 17 leagues goals so far, meaning they remain in the hunt for the Golden Shoe.
It would be folly to rule out Diego Costa too, who is one goal behind on 16, while Zlatan Ibrahimovic is further back on 15 - the same amount as Ronaldo.
Two hat-tricks in six league games from Kane has turned an average scoring campaign into yet another prolific one for the Tottenham striker. It also highlights how quickly the tide can turn, and how long there is left for a player to take the prize beyond anyone else's reach.
And as we approach the business end of the season, we can see that Europe's top strikers are turning up the heat in front of goal too, with Messi, Dzeko, Cavani and Lewandowski all having scored five goals in their last five games.
Goals scored in last five league games
|Robert Lewandowski||Bayern Munich||5|
|Cristiano Ronaldo||Real Madrid||4|
Such a goal-a-game ratio has not been enough in five of the past six seasons, but the Golden Shoe could well be awarded to the player who achieves this feat for the remainder of the campaign - it's clear Dzeko is as well placed as any other to do just that.
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