Who will win thrilling race for the Golden Boot as the Premier League restarts? 

The long wait is almost over. Premier League football makes its comeback on Wednesday after a pause of almost three months amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

It will look and feel very different with empty stadiums, piped-in crowd noise and pre-match fanfare kept to a minimum.

But one thing that won’t change will be the fierce competition between the Premier League’s leading strikers to claim the Golden Boot for top scorer.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was one of three players who shared the Golden boot last year

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was one of three players who shared the Golden boot last year

Liverpool's Sadio Mane, like Aubameyang and team-mate Salah, scored 22 goals in 2018-19

Liverpool’s Sadio Mane, like Aubameyang and team-mate Salah, scored 22 goals in 2018-19

Salah posed with his Golden Boot after the three-way tie for the accolade last season

Salah posed with his Golden Boot after the three-way tie for the accolade last season

Three players – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Arsenal and the Liverpool duo Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane – shared the accolade last season after each scoring 22 goals.

And it’s shaping up to be another very tight contest this season as the top-flight action resumes.

Here’s a reminder of the lethal strikers who’ll battle it out for the Golden Boot in the weeks ahead.

JAMIE VARDY

Leicester City, 19 goals, 117 minutes per goal

When Brendan Rodgers was appointed Leicester City manager in February last year, one of the first things he did was emphasise to Jamie Vardy just how important he was.

That vote of confidence has certainly paid off with Vardy producing some of the most prolific form of his career to leave Leicester odds-on to qualify for the Champions League.

Vardy has scored 19 times this season, giving him a two-goal head start in this race as the season gets going again, but there have been both floods of goals and droughts for the ex-England striker.

The highlight of Jamie Vardy's season so far came in scoring a hat-trick against Southampton

The highlight of Jamie Vardy’s season so far came in scoring a hat-trick against Southampton

Between October 19 and December 8, Vardy scored 11 goals across eight consecutive league games, including three in Leicester’s remarkable 9-0 win at Southampton.

But after returning from a short injury lay-off over the New Year, he failed to score in six consecutive league games in January and February, as well as two League Cup outings.

That barren run was finally ended with two goals against Aston Villa in what was the last Premier League match before the shutdown on March 9.

Rodgers will hope it’s the free-scoring Vardy that emerges from this enforced break and Vardy remains the favourite with the bookmakers.

Leicester's main striker returned to scoring form with two goals in March's win over Aston Villa

Leicester’s main striker returned to scoring form with two goals in March’s win over Aston Villa

PIERRE-EMERICK AUBAMEYANG

Arsenal, 17 goals, 136 minutes per goal

It’s been a disappointing season for Arsenal in many regards but even though they restart the campaign in a lowly ninth position, they still have a chance of making the Champions League.

But if they’re to achieve that, they need their free-scoring captain Aubameyang to continue what has been another excellent season.

Aubameyang’s two goals against Everton in late February actually drew him level with Vardy at the top of this list before the Leicester man’s double against Villa.

Aubameyang fires past Jordan Pickford during Arsenal's win over Everton in February

Aubameyang fires past Jordan Pickford during Arsenal’s win over Everton in February

His 17 league goals have come in a more consistent pattern to Vardy’s, spread throughout the season and he hasn’t lost form at any point despite Arsenal’s setbacks.

In far too many games, Aubameyang has contributed a goal or two, but lapses in defence have seen Arsenal only draw when they should have won.

But last season’s Golden Boot winner has underlined his class by scoring against Tottenham, Man United and Chelsea.

His importance is shown by the fact Aubameyang has 20 goals this season in all competitions – and the next highest Arsenal scorer has 10.  

Arsenal’s final position and whether or not they qualify for Europe is likely to decide whether Aubameyang stays past the summer but the Gunners are optimistic they can persuade him to stay.

Arsenal have become reliant on Aubameyang for goals and need to convince him to stay

Arsenal have become reliant on Aubameyang for goals and need to convince him to stay 

MOHAMED SALAH

Liverpool, 16 goals, 140 minutes per goal

It looks set to be another historic season for Liverpool, despite the best efforts of the coronavirus to derail their title charge.

When the season resumes, it will be a matter of time before Jurgen Klopp’s team seal their first league championship in 30 years and Salah has certainly played a full part.

Last season, the Egyptian scored 22 goals to earn a share of the Golden Boot and there’s every chance he will match or exceed that tally during the run-in.

Mohamed Salah is challenging for the Golden Boot again with Liverpool set to be champions

Mohamed Salah is challenging for the Golden Boot again with Liverpool set to be champions

Salah has produced a consistent flow of goals as Liverpool have led the Premier League from start to finish, losing just one match so far and winning 27 of 29 played.

Along the way, Salah has chipped in with important goals against the likes of Man City, Man United, Tottenham and Arsenal.

Other goals against teams further down the table have enabled Liverpool to keep up a winning consistency that has been quite astonishing.

There are so many unknowns when the season resumes but Salah has every chance of taking the Golden Boot outright – as he did in 2017-18 – assuming Liverpool don’t throttle down after sealing the title.

The Egyptian has once again contributed his share of crucial goals, including against Man City

The Egyptian has once again contributed his share of crucial goals, including against Man City

SERGIO AGUERO

Manchester City, 16 goals, 88 minutes per goal

We should cherish Sergio Aguero playing in the Premier League while we can.

At 32, the City frontman is more injury prone and doesn’t start as often but still manages to score at the rate of one per match.

This season probably won’t be as memorable for City as others but it’s seen Aguero take his career goal tally for clubs and Argentina beyond 400.

Another matchball for Sergio Aguero's collection after scoring a hat-trick at Aston Villa

Another matchball for Sergio Aguero’s collection after scoring a hat-trick at Aston Villa

In scoring three in City’s 6-1 win at Aston Villa in January, Aguero set a new Premier League record for most hat-tricks with 12.

His finest form came right at the start of the season, with Aguero scoring in City’s first six league games as it appeared for a while the defending champions could keep up with Liverpool.

That didn’t happen, but Aguero continued to score regularly, including six during January.

However, he’d gone four league games without finding the net prior to the suspension of the season so there is form to pick up when City resume against Arsenal on Wednesday night.

Aguero continues to score in the league for City at a rate of roughly one goal every game

Aguero continues to score in the league for City at a rate of roughly one goal every game

DANNY INGS

Southampton, 15 goals, 134 minutes per goal

Southampton aren’t quite clear of relegation danger as the season resumes – they’d lost four of five prior to the shutdown – but it’s been a superb season for Ings.

Unlikely to break into Liverpool’s front three, Ings did the sensible thing and sought greater opportunities elsewhere in the Premier League.

And Southampton will be delighted they made his loan from Liverpool permanent last summer with the 15 goals Ings has scored dragging them up the table.

Danny Ings celebrates scoring his 15th league goal of the season against Burnley in February

Danny Ings celebrates scoring his 15th league goal of the season against Burnley in February

A run of scoring in five consecutive games in late November and early December, plus another goal glut in January, helped Ralph Hasenhuttl steady the ship.

But there’s still work to be done and Ings, who scored just once in seven games before the break, will need to rediscover his scoring touch to avoid Saints being dragged back into the mire.

SADIO MANE

Liverpool, 14 goals, 149 minutes per goal

While not quite as prolific as last season, when he earned a share of the Golden Boot, Mane remains in the mix after another memorable campaign for Liverpool.

He’s not only scored on a regular basis but has supplied seven league assists as well as Liverpool’s forward line has continued to work harmoniously.

Mane was outstanding in Liverpool’s 5-2 win over Everton in December, scoring one goal and creating two more, while he’d netted three times in four games in February and March.

He’ll have to go some to win another Golden Boot but you certainly wouldn’t put it past the Senegal international to go pretty close.

Sadio Mane shared the Golden Boot last season and has enjoyed another excellent campaign

Sadio Mane shared the Golden Boot last season and has enjoyed another excellent campaign

MARCUS RASHFORD

Manchester United, 14 goals, 134 minutes per goal

One of the great beneficiaries of this break has been Rashford, with the time off allowing the England frontman to recover from his back injury.

That had kept him sidelined since mid-January but now he’s back to fitness and ready to help Manchester United’s push for Champions League qualification.

Other players stepped up in Rashford’s absence – United are 11 unbeaten in all competitions – but there’s no question who the most important striker at Old Trafford is.

Rashford has scored against Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham and Leicester this season, delivering in the important games, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needs him to continue doing so.

Manchester United's Marcus Rashford was enjoying a great season before his back injury

Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford was enjoying a great season before his back injury

ANY CHANCE FOR THESE THREE?

Below that, three players are tied on 13 goals with an outside chance of taking the Golden Boot.

Wolves’ Raul Jimenez, Chelsea’s Tammy Abraham and Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin all have 13 but will have to hit the ground running when the Premier League kicks off again.

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