With Harry Kane and Sergio Aguero out of action, Mohamed Salah pulled clear in the race for the Premier League Golden Boot with four goals against Watford on Saturday.
The Liverpool forward found the net twice in the first half, set up Roberto Firmino’s flicked finish, completed his hat-trick and then made it 28 Premier League goals for the season in the 5-0 win.
Salah now stands four goals ahead of Tottenham’s Kane, who has won the award for the past two years running, and seven clear of 2014/15 top scorer Aguero of Manchester City.
Aguero’s team-mate Raheem Sterling (15 goals), Manchester United’s Romelu Lukaku and Jamie Vardy (both 14) are the next best, but would need a stunning scoring streak in the final weeks of the campaign to overhaul the Egypt international.
Salah’s chances of taking the title had been strengthened by Kane’s ankle injury, which the Spurs striker sustained against Bournemouth last week and will keep him out until next month. But Salah seized his opportunity in style at Anfield, with an expertly taken four-goal haul.
Aguero has also missed game time – a knee injury picked up in training kept him out of Monday’s win at Stoke, although he is likely to be ready to return after the international break for the trip to Everton on March 31.
Salah breaks Liverpool record
Salah now has 36 goals in all competitions – breaking Fernando Torres’ record for most goals in a debut season for Liverpool, which the Spaniard set in 2007/08.
As well as Salah’s continued fine form and the injuries to his rivals for the top scorer prize, Liverpool’s remaining league games are also in his favour.
The Reds have an easier run-in than Tottenham or Manchester City, according to the current league positions of their remaining opponents.
Liverpool face fixtures against teams who average 13.1 place in the table, compared to Tottenham, whose opponents average 11th, and City, whose opponents average 11.25.
Salah’s goal impact
Salah has been directly involved in more goals than any other player in the Premier League this season (37 – 28 goals, nine assists).
Salah also has a better record against his remaining opposition this season than Kane or Aguero have against the teams they still have to face.
The 25-year-old has scored five goals from matches against Liverpool’s final seven opponents.
Kane has two goals from the reverse fixtures against Tottenham’s final eight opponents. Aguero scored three goals earlier this season from matches against City’s remaining opponents.