Since the Premier League shifted from 42 to 38 matches ahead of the 1995-96 season, three players have scored a joint-record 31 goals in a campaign.
A veritable star-studded triumvirate of Alan Shearer, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Luis Suarez is now looking over its collective shoulders as the front-runner for player of the year closes the gap.
Considering Mohamed Salah’s blistering season-long run of form, it’s not a case of if, but when, the Egypt international will set a new standard. Salah leads England’s top flight with 28 goals in 30 matches courtesy of a league-best minutes-per-goal ratio of 85, and the summer signing shows no signs of slowing with 10 goals in the last seven matches.
With Liverpool’s Premier League run-in kicking off Saturday at Selhurst Park, here’s a glance at the Reds’ final seven opponents, and where Salah is likely to set the record:
Crystal Palace vs. Liverpool (March 31): Palace has lost its last two home fixtures, albeit both by one-goal margins to Tottenham and Manchester United, respectively, though Selhurst Park has hardly been a fortress for Roy Hodgson’s charges. The two sides contested the first match of the campaign – a 1-0 Liverpool victory at Anfield where Salah came on in the 61st minute for Daniel Sturridge – so there’s not a lot to go on in terms of past meetings.
Mo’s got nine in his last six matches and is likely to face Wayne Hennessey, a rusty sieve with silver dollar-sized voids.
Everton vs. Liverpool (April 7): The Merseyside derby against an Everton side that’s been adequate at home would provide an ideal venue to break the record, though this clash comes days after Liverpool’s Champions League quarter-final first-leg tie with Manchester City, meaning Jurgen Klopp may fancy shuffling the deck. Salah was Man of the Match in the first meeting between the two sides, scoring moments before the interval in a 1-1 draw.
The Toffees have won three on the trot at Goodison, and Salah may get a breather with a top-four spot all but secured.
Liverpool vs. Bournemouth (April 14): Eddie Howe’s Cherries have been surprisingly decent away from Dean Court, conceding fewer than half their goals away from home. Okay, enough with the positives. Last time these two sides met, Salah scored once in a 4-0 rout, and with Bournemouth sitting 10th, eight points adrift of the drop but well distant of a European spot, the south coast side may be in a generous mood.
Unless he picks up a knock four days sooner at the Etihad, Salah may very well cement the record here.
West Brom vs. Liverpool (April 22): Depending how West Brom’s three prior league affairs go, the Baggies may already be relegated by the time Liverpool visits the Hawthorns. That doesn’t bode well for a side with the league’s worst home record, and even with a scoreless draw on the record against the Reds in mid-December, West Brom has conceded nine goals in its last three home matches. Eek.
It’s reasonable to expect Salah to score eight goals versus the hopeless Baggies before coming off at the break for Dominic Solanke.
Liverpool vs. Stoke (April 28): What better way to celebrate the run-in than with a visit from a Stoke City side that boasts the league’s second-worst away form highlighted by 33 goals conceded through 15 matches away from bet365 Stadium? When the teams met in November, Salah came on in the 67th minute, and scored with both shots on target. Modest outing that.
Second from bottom, Stoke will have plenty to play for, but with just one win away from home, expect Salah to prosper.
Chelsea vs. Liverpool (May 5): If the Reds haven’t secured a top-four spot by the time they make the west London sojourn to Stamford Bridge, this match may be a cracker, especially with Chelsea thirsting for a coveted Champions League berth as well. Salah scored the opener in a 1-1 draw between the two sides in November, and has nine goals against capital clubs this year (No, the quartet against Hertfordshire lot Watford doesn’t count.)
Deemed not good enough whilst under Jose Mourinho’s watch, Salah should relish the return to Stamford Bridge.
Liverpool vs. Brighton (May 13): Quite stunningly, Salah didn’t score when Liverpool thrashed Brighton 5-1 in December, but the Egyptian star was no less influential, assisting on Bobby Firmino’s second while playing in a 3-5-1-1 as a makeshift No. 10 in support of the Brazilian. Of note, 17 of Salah’s 28 league goals have come at Anfield, and has scored in seven home matches on the bounce ahead of the international break.
If by some miracle Salah hasn’t set the Premier League record by this point, something has gone curiously wrong.
(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)