Napoli's Gonzalo Higuain continued his fine 2015-16 campaign with another goal in Sunday's 5-1 demolition of Empoli, but Borussia Dortmund's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski and Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo all gained ground on the Argentina international during the weekend.
Ronaldo scored yet another hat-trick against Espanyol to take his season tally to 19 goals, tying him with Lewandowski, who bagged a brace against Hoffenheim. Aubameyang sits one ahead of the duo after scoring twice against Ingolstadt, but Higuain remains the leader with 44 points, courtesy of 22 goals.
Here's a look at the latest standings:
|Position||Player||Team||Goals x Factor||Points|
|1||Gonzalo Higuain||Napoli||22 x 2||44.0|
|2||Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang||Borussia Dortmund||20 x 2||40.0|
|T3||Robert Lewandowski||Bayern Munich||19 x 2||38.0|
|T3||Luis Suarez||Barcelona||19 x 2||38.0|
|T3||Cristiano Ronaldo||Real Madrid||19 x 2||38.0|
|T3||Jonas||Benfica||19 x 2||38.0|
|7||Karim Benzema||Real Madrid||18 x 2||36.0|
|T8||Alex Teixeira||Shakhtar Donetsk||22 x 1.5||33.0|
|T8||Nemanja Nikolic||Legia Warsaw||22 x 1.5||33.0|
|T8||Eran Zahavi||Maccabi Tel Aviv||22 x 1.5||33.0|
Rules: Each league is attributed a difficulty constant (between one and two), which is combined with the number of goals scored to produce a total.
For example, La Liga is considered among the top leagues in Europe, so Ronaldo's 19 goals are doubled to create his points tally of 38. By contrast, the Lithuanian top flight has a constant of one, meaning Tomas Radzinevicius’ 28 goals equate to 28 points.
Ronaldo Continues Red-Hot Scoring Form
Ronaldo's hat-trick against Espanyol means he has now scored 19 goals in La Liga this season, five of which have come across his last three starts.
The Portugal international opened his account from the penalty spot early and added a headed goal and a phenomenal left-footed strike to power Los Blancos past Espanyol. Per ESPN Stats & Info, he's making a habit out of feasting on the Catalans:
Cristiano Ronaldo has extended his La Liga record with his 29th La Liga hat trick— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 31, 2016
He has a hat trick in 3 straight games vs Espanyol
Ronaldo's form has been inconsistent throughout the 2015-16 campaign, but his outing against Espanyol should go some way toward silencing his critics. Manager Zinedine Zidane thinks so, as he told reporters after the match, per Goal.com's Stefan Coerts:
We have got used to it that Cristiano scores a lot of goals. If he doesn't score three, he has not done well in the eyes of some.
It will always be like this, because we have gotten used to his goals. There is no problem if he doesn't score every now and then. He is hugely ambitious.
Plus he put in a lot of work defensively as well today.
Real now sit just one point behind Atletico Madrid in the standings, with Barcelona holding down the top spot. The Catalans have a match in hand and a three-point lead over Atleti, so the two Madrid-based clubs will have their work cut out while trying to catch the defending champions.
Ronaldo's scoring could play a key role in Los Blancos' race to catch the Blaugrana, but in order to bridge the gap, the 30-year-old will have to start scoring in the top matches as well. Some have criticised him because most of his goals have come against weaker clubs such as Espanyol―with top clashes on the remaining schedule, he'll have a chance to prove those doubters wrong.
Bundesliga Duo Return in Style
The Bundesliga traditionally has a long winter break, which means that every year the league's top players lose ground in the rankings around Christmas. This campaign has been no different, but judging by their form, both Lewandowski and Aubameyang will return to the top of the standings before long.
Lewandowski had already scored twice last week against Hamburg, and he replicated that performance against Hoffenheim, bringing him within a single goal of Dortmund ace Aubameyang.
The Poland international's scoring form is a welcome sight for Bayern, and he'll have to keep it going in the coming weeks. Star defender Jerome Boateng (groin) has already missed time, and per DW Sports' Stefan Bienkowski, team-mate Javi Martinez has also picked up a knock:
Javi Martinez's injury is a huge blow for Bayern. And an immense amount of pressure that has now fallen on Holger Badstuber.— Stefan Bienkowski (@SBienkowski) January 31, 2016
Holger Badstuber is the only other experienced centre-back in manager Pep Guardiola's squad, and it's unclear whether Martinez will return to the pitch in time for the UEFA Champions League double-header against Juventus.
Aubameyang's double against Ingolstadt and Hertha Berlin's 3-3 draw against Werder Bremen mean Dortmund now hold a 10-point lead over the rest of the field for second place, and while the club still trails Bayern by eight points in the standings, the Bavarians' injury concerns might open the door for an improbable comeback.
Similar to Lewandowski at Bayern, Dortmund seem set to go as far as Aubameyang will take them, per Bleacher Report UK:
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (20) has already scored more Bundesliga goals than last season’s top scorer— Bleacher Report UK (@br_uk) January 31, 2016
It’s January pic.twitter.com/oLQobLyiwT
Die Schwartzgelben looked unimpressive against Ingolstadt but came away with the win, and that's what matters. With him and Lewandowski both in excellent form, Higuain better keep scoring at the same impressive rate, or he may lose his top spot before long.