Both Barcelona's Luis Suarez and Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski closed the gap on Napoli's Gonzalo Higuain at the top of the 2015-16 Golden Shoe standings over the weekend.
Suarez's hat-trick in Barca's 6-1 drubbing of Celta Vigo sees him tied in second place on 23 goals, while Lewandowski's double against Augsburg took his league tally for the season to 21.
Cristiano Ronaldo is also on 21 goals after he scored twice in Real Madrid's 4-2 win over Athletic Bilbao.
Here are the full standings following the weekend's action in Europe:
|Position||Player||Team||Goals x Factor||Points|
|1||Gonzalo Higuain||Napoli||24 x 2||48.0|
|T2||Luis Suarez||Barcelona||23 x 2||46.0|
|T2||Jonas||Benfica||23 x 2||46.0|
|T4||Robert Lewandowski||Bayern Munich||21 x 2||42.0|
|T4||Cristiano Ronaldo||Real Madrid||21 x 2||42.0|
|6||Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang||Borussia Dortmund||20 x 2||40.0|
|T7||Jamie Vardy||Leicester City||19 x 2||38.0|
|T7||Karim Benzema||Real Madrid||19 x 2||38.0|
|T9||Eran Zahavi||Maccabi Tel Aviv||24 x 1.5||36.0|
|T9||Islam Slimani||Sporting Lisbon||18 x 2||36.0|
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 21 goals are doubled to create his points tally of 42. By contrast, the Israeli top flight has a constant of 1.5, meaning Eran Zahavi’s 24 goals equate to 36 points.
Suarez On the Charge
With Suarez now just only one goal back from Higuain in the Golden Shoe standings, the Argentinian is in serious danger of being overtaken.
The Uruguayan was, once again, phenomenal in Sunday's thrashing of Celta Vigo, and a cheeky penalty routine with Lionel Messi completed his treble in the 81st minute—see highlights below:
He is now the top scorer in La Liga and has netted three hat-tricks in his last seven appearances in all competitions, per WhoScored.com:
Luis Suárez: Has scored his third hat-trick in his last 7 apps for Barcelona— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) February 14, 2016
Scoring at this rate—better than a goal a game—he should eclipse Higuain before the season's out, as the Napoli star's Serie A return of 24 goals has come in 25 matches, per WhoScored.
Suarez's main challenger in Spain at the moment is Ronaldo, who has scored only two goals fewer and contributed more than any other player in Spain in attacking terms, per Sky Sports Statto:
The Portuguese superstar has won the the Golden Shoe for the last two seasons running and will not give it up without a fight.
However, if he is to catch up and overtake Suarez, Higuain and Benfica's Jonas, Ronaldo will need to turn his form around on the road, especially with a trip to Malaga up next, per Bleacher Report's Sam Tighe:
As ever, there are a number of La Liga stars in contention for the Golden Shoe, with Karim Benzema and Neymar also closing in on the top spots, but Suarez looks the man to beat in the Spanish top flight.
Lewandowski Edges Past Aubameyang
Borussia Dortmund's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was the pace-setter in the Golden Shoe race at the end of 2015.
However, he was absent for Dortmund's 1-0 win over Hannover on Saturday, and Lewandowski took full advantage as he leapfrogged his main Bundesliga rival.
For the third time in his last four Bundesliga appearances, the Polish international scored twice, netting one in each half for Pep Guardiola's side to set up a comfortable win.
Per Eurosport, Lewandowski has been hugely influential for Bayern this season and will undoubtedly remain in the mix for the Golden Shoe unless he picks up an injury:
Bayern's lead in the Bundesliga stands at eight points to second-placed Dortmund, thanks in no small part to the contribution of Lewandowski.
The Munich giants are likely, once again, to seal the title with a few games to spare, but the 27-year-old cannot afford to slow his goalscoring rate if he is to beat the quality competition to the Golden Shoe.