Which striker will end up as the top scorer in the Premier League this season? Goal.com examines those who are favourites to take the award, and some outside bets tooBy Chris Davie
We've passed the congested festive schedule in the Premier League and two strikers have emerged from the busy run of fixtures as frontrunners for the Golden Boot.
Robin van Persie tops the chart with 16 goals this season with Liverpool's Luis Suarez one behind the Dutchman. Demba Ba's move to Chelsea could also bolster the Senegal forward's chances of scooping the gong this term, providing he ousts Fernando Torres from his regular role at Stamford Bridge.
Here's Goal.com's look at the players who are in the running for the Golden Boot this term.
After a blistering December, Robin van Persie currently leads the Premier League scoring charts with 16 goals this season. The Netherlands international struck in all but one of his six Premier League fixtures last month, while he started 2013 in similar form after netting twice against Wigan Athletic on New Year's Day.
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Sitting behind Van Persie with one goal fewer is Liverpool's Luis Suarez. Unlike the Dutchman, the Uruguay international had a relatively quiet start to December before springing into life towards the end of the month, scoring once against Fulham and two against a hapless QPR at Loftus Road. Suarez continued his prowess in front of goal into the New Year and bagged another double against Sunderland on January 2.
The Liverpool talisman appears to be the strongest candidate to contest Van Persie, but with Daniel Sturridge's arrival at Anfield, we could see the 25-year-old, who averages just over six shots per game, shifted to a supporting role.
Demba Ba, despite Newcastle United's struggles this season, has been in superb form in front of goal and struck five times in six matches last month. Chelsea have been quick to pounce on the £7 million release clause the Senegal international had in his contract at St James' Park, and now the 27-year-old has arrived at Stamford Bridge as a challenger for Fernando Torres.
Ba has already struck twice in Chelsea's FA Cup third-round win over Southampton and was unlucky to see a goal ruled out against Swansea in the Capital One Cup on Wednesday evening. Given the service the forward is likely to receive from Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and the rest of Chelsea's midfield, we could see him develop into a strong candidate for the Golden Boot.
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Hailed as one of the Premier League's best-ever bargains, Michu has taken the Premier League by storm following his £2 million arrival from Rayo Vallecano last summer. The Spaniard currently stands on 13 goals in 20 appearances for Swansea City and struck five times in as many Premier League games last month. Providing Michael Laudrup continues to play the 26-year-old as a forward, Michu remains as the best-ranked 'outsider' to contend for the Golden Boot this term.
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Providing Defoe with the goal-scoring competition at White Hart Lane is Gareth Bale, who sits behind his team-mate on nine goals this season. The Wales international has impressed this season but it's unlikely he'll be able to keep pace with the Premier League's regular scorers.
Surprisingly, Edin Dzeko also stands on nine goals this season having started just seven games this season and the Bosnian is currently Manchester City's highest scorer in the Premier League.
Sergio Aguero is one behind his club-mate with eight goals but has now been sidelined with a hamstring injury which will see him miss City's trip to Arsenal on Sunday. Carlos Tevez has struck seven times this season but Roberto Mancini's striker rotation looks set to hinder City's forwards in their pursuit of the Golden Boot.
Van Persie continues to headline Manchester United's attack and the Dutchman's form in front of goal has had an impact on Wayne Rooney's tally this season. The England international, who netted 27 goals last term, has seven goals in 14 appearances this season but has often played in a deeper role.
Chicharito, meanwhile, linked up superbly with Van Persie during United's 4-0 victory over Wigan Athletic on New Year's Day and netted a double at the DW Stadium. The Mexico international has eight goals from 13 appearances, five of which were starts.
Goal.com exclusively revealed on Wednesday that Theo Walcott has signed a new four-and-a-half year deal with Arsenal and the England international's bumper contract could not come at a better time as he's beginning to flourish in a forward's role.
Walcott bagged a hat-trick against Newcastle United on December 29, which took his tally to eight goals in 17 Premier League appearances this season, and while the Golden Boot is likely to be out of the 23-year-old's reach this term, being handed a regular run as a striker should sufficiently prepare him for the next campaign.
Steven Fletcher stands on eight goals for the season and the Scotland international appears to mirror Sunderland's inconsistency having struck just twice last month. If Martin O'Neill can improve his side's creativity, at the moment only Aston Villa, Reading and Stoke average less shots per game than the Black Cats, Fletcher's tally could be pushing 20 before the campaign is out.
Rickie Lambert has also struck eight times this season and will be vital for Southampton's bid for survival. A 15-goal haul from the 30-year-old looks to be a realistic target.