Mario Mandzukic could break the dominance of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo by becoming the Champions League top goalscorer for the 2013-14 campaign.
For the last six seasons, the two players generally regarded as the best in the world have monopolised this honour, Ronaldo’s two appearances at the top of the chart bookending the quartet of years when Messi was top dog.
But there are sound reasons for thinking they could be eclipsed this time, possibly by Mandzukic of Bayern Munich.
The first point to make when assessing this market is that it does not necessarily matter who lifts the Champions League trophy. In the six years when Messi and Ronaldo have dominated, only half of the time did the top goalscorer also collect a winner’s medal.
It should be noted that the knockout phase is only one match longer than the group stage for the teams that reach the final, and there is greater potential for one-sided results pre-Christmas when the weaker teams among the last 32 are still involved.
Barcelona and Real Madrid have relatively difficult groups in which it may prove harder for Messi and Ronaldo to reproduce their previous goalscoring exploits, thereby reducing their chances of reaching double figures for the competition.
Bayern, however, will fancy themselves to score plenty of goals in their two games against Viktoria Plzen in particular, and if that is the case then you can expect Mandzukic to be firmly among them.
Mario Mandzukic (right) in German Super Cup action with Kevin Grosskreutz of Borussia Dortmund (PATRIK STOLLARZ/AFP/Getty Images)
The big Croatian has made a roaring success of his move from Wolfsburg in summer 2012, seeing off rival Mario Gomez to become Bayern’s first-choice striker in their familiar 4-2-3-1 system.
The 27-year-old gobbled up the abundant service provided by Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben, Toni Kroos et al last term to notch 20 goals in all competitions and also has Mario Gotze, Xherdan Shaqiri and Thiago Alcantara (when fit again) queuing up to supply him with chances this time around.
are offering ¼ odds for four places in this market plus best odds of 12/1 about Mandzukic and that really does look a price worth taking.
Messi is obviously a worthy favourite having started La Liga season with five goals in two games and his record against group opponents AC Milan – five in six – indicates he could have another field day or two when Barcelona face the Italians.
Ronaldo, however, has had a quiet start to the campaign and speculation about just how happy he is in Madrid, plus the arrival of Gareth Bale to steal some of the spotlight, suggests he is one to oppose this time.
Mandzukic therefore looks the best value to help himself to plenty more goals.
Recommendation: Mario Mandzukic each-way top goalscorer (12/1, Betfred)