The Golden Boot race: Bookies back Liverpool’s Torres, Chelsea’ Drogba & Manchester United’s Owen

The Golden Boot race: Bookies back Liverpools Torres, Chelsea Drogba & Manchester Uniteds OwenAt 5/2 with William Hill, Liverpool’s Spanish striker Fernando Torres is the favourite for this season’s Premier League golden boot award.

Last season Il Nino’s attempted challenge to outscore his fellow strikers was hamstrung by injuries, although the Reds’ forward did manage to record almost a goal every other game netting 14 times in the league. Had he played more often, Torres, arguably the most feared out-an-out striker in the division, would likely have claimed the top honours.

Provided Torres can maintain his fitness in the next 12 months the Spaniard should outgun his fellow pros. And should the number 9 start the season on fire, prepare to see his odds slashed sooner rather than later.

Chelsea’s Didier Drogba (11/1) is listed as Torres’ main rival in the goalscoring charts. Having penned a new contract to stay at the Bridge during the summer, hopes are high that the Ivorian will be switched on and raring to go this season under new boss Ancelotti. If the Chelsea battering-ram remains interested and focused, the goals will naturally follow. However, should Drogba entertain a mid-season funk – a fear which never seems too far away – then the striker could go slightly off the boil.

Two pointers go against Drogba scooping the golden boot. First, the forward will be forced to disappear from English football at the turn of the year as international duty calls with the Ivory Coast at the African Cup of Nations. Second, Drogba is jointly responsible for getting the goals at Chelsea with last-season’s top goalscorer Nicolas Anelka (12/1), which could also result in the pair sharing out the spoils in the year ahead.

Little Mickey is priced as the joint-second favourite at 11/1. Considering that Owen bagged just eight goals in 28 appearances last year and 11 in 29 the year before that, the former Newcastle striker looks like being the punters heart-over-head choice.

Too many question-marks about Owen’s fitness and/or where he fits into Sir Alex’s thinking dog Little Mickey’s cheering squad. However, as the Premier League’s current all-time 7th highest goalscorer with 144 goals, simply ignoring Owen’s threat is foolish.

Closing out the front-runners is Wayne Rooney at 12/1. With Cristiano Ronaldo now long gone, Fergie has been quick to announce Rooney as his side’s main striker. No longer will the Shrek look-a-like be stuck out on the wings or asked to compromise his attacking game for the benefit of the team at large. Rooney will be played through the middle, leading the line. And if his form showed during the pre-season and the Community Shield is anything to go by, Rooney should have little trouble eclipsing his 12 league goals notched last season.

Of the longer shots, Arsenal boast two potential serial-goalscorers in the form of Andrei Arshavin (20/1) and Eduardo da Silva (25/1). The Russian may be the dark horse of the forthcoming season, having been sensational ever since joining the Gunners at the back end of last season in which he scored a superb six goals in 12 matches, including seven assists.

Also in with a shout are strikers for some of the leagues smaller teams.

Darren Bent at Sunderland (40/1), Carlton Cole at West Ham (66/1) or even Sylvan Ebanks-Blake at Wolves (66/1) could all find themselves near the top of the charts if they hit any sort of purple patch during the forthcoming campaign. As Andrew Johnson proved during the 2004/05 Premier League season with Crystal Palace (21 goals in 37 games), sometimes being the big fish in the small pond is beneficial for a forward.

Complete odds for the 2009/10 Golden Boot race can be seen here.