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Strikers set to light up Europa League

Wayne Rooney and Sergio Agüero may sprinkle some extra stardust on the UEFA Europa League but there are other forwards to fear in a competition rich in striking talent.

The UEFA Europa League's top domestic scorers ©Getty Images

The English Premier League's top two sides, Manchester City FC and Manchester United FC, may sprinkle some extra stardust on the UEFA Europa League when they enter the round of 32 this week but they will find they are not alone in boasting exciting attacking talents.

RSC Anderlecht's seven-goal Matiás Suárez and FC Lokomotiv Moskva's Dmitri Sychev, with six, head the UEFA Europa League scoring chart and, as our list below shows, there are plenty of other hot shots in a competition featuring some of the most prolific scorers in Europe's major domestic leagues.

Burak Yılmaz (Trabzonspor AŞ) 27*
The runaway top scorer in the Super Lig, Turkish fans are wondering whether Burak can match Galatasaray AŞ striker Tanju Çolak's record of 39 goals in one season, set in 1987/88. The 26-year-old ended 2011 with a hat-trick, and scored 11 more goals in nine league games this year. "Before the start of the season, I didn't expect to score quite so many goals," said Burak. "Some players who I got on with left the club, and that affected me badly to start with, but after I started to take more responsibility, the standard of my performances increased."

Antonio Di Natale (Udinese Calcio) 17*
Di Natale, who turns 35 today, is in line to become the first Italian player to finish as Serie A's top scorer for three consecutive seasons, following in the footsteps of UEFA President Michel Platini, who achieved that notable treble between 1983 and 1985. "It would be a huge satisfaction for me," he said. "I scored 29 and 28 goals in the last two seasons; now I just need the icing on the cake to match what a great player like Platini achieved." A broken toe suffered against AC Milan on Saturday could hamper those ambitions and he has been ruled out of this week's meeting with PAOK FC.

Luuk de Jong (FC Twente) 17
After scoring 12 Eredivisie goals last term, the younger brother of Ajax midfielder Siem de Jong battled it out with Marc Janko for his favoured central striking position in the autumn, but with the Austrian's winter move to FC Porto, the 21-year-old is now making the role his own. He scored five times in the first two fixtures after the winter break to dazzle returning boss Steve McClaren and said: "I am happy to be playing in my favourite position now. I want to develop further as a striker."

Wayne Rooney (Manchester United FC) 17
The 26-year-old's reputation as a fearsome goalscorer has not always been reflected by statistics; Rooney has only once broken the 20-goal mark for a single league season, registering 26 times in 2009/10. However, with 17 scored already in the league, the former Everton FC man is on target to do so again, and is now reaching the stage of the season which he believes he and his United team-mates enjoy the most. "I always feel we are at our best around now because we can see the end of the season and that there are trophies there to be won," he said.

Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (FC Schalke 04) 16
"You could chop his head off and he would still score goals," said Dutch striker Huntelaar's Schalke team-mate Lewis Holtby. After struggling at Real Madrid CF and AC Milan to match the startling form of his early career at AFC Ajax, a move back north of the Alps has revitalised the 28-year-old. "I'm one of those people who has matured physically later in life," said Huntelaar, the top scorer in UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying with 12 goals. "The older I get, the stronger and better I get. I think I still have one or two years before I reach my peak."

Sergio Agüero (Manchester City FC) 15
Agüero has already hit 15 goals in the Premier League this term, and his coach Roberto Mancini maintains that the Club Atlético de Madrid old boy can make it to 30 by the end of his first campaign in England. "Sergio is very strong physically," said Mancini. "He is not tall but his strength is amazing." Goalkeeper Joe Hart, a year Agüero's senior at 24, added: "I do think he has a lot more to offer and it is going to be awesome for Manchester City when he does. He is younger than me and, if I am honest, that shocks me a little."

Dries Mertens (PSV Eindhoven) 15
Skilful, stylish and an excellent dribbler, Mertens took the scenic route to reach PSV, but as his strike rate suggests, the 24-year-old is making up for lost time. Once a trainee with RSC Anderlecht and KAA Gent, he made his professional debut in the Dutch second division for AGOVV Apeldoorn in 2006, moving on to FC Utrecht three years later. Belgium team-mate Timmy Simons believes more moves are on the cards. "He certainly has the quality to go to a club like Bayern München," said the 1. FC Nürnberg defender. "I have told him that the Bundesliga is an excellent competition."

Falcao (Club Atlético de Madrid) 14
An instant success at the Vicente Calderón after his €40m summer arrival from Porto, where his record-breaking 17 UEFA Europa League goals had helped the Portuguese side to the trophy, Falcao is now back to his best under new coach Diego Simeone after a brief downturn in form. The 25-year-old has hit five goals in his last four games to help lift Los Rojiblancos back up the standings and the Colombian international wants more. "It was a dream for me to come to Atlético. I am living a wonderful situation here and want to improve on everything I've achieved up to now."

* top scorer in their domestic league

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