Munich - Hannover 96 have made no secret of their desire to play in Europe again next season, and for that undertaking, they need at least to match the 60 Bundesliga goals they grabbed last season.
Strike rate to be envied
How they are going to achieve that having sold Mohammed Abdellaoue to VfB Stuttgart is one of the biggest challenges coach Mirko Slomka faces, but also one that he can resolve from within his own camp.
The key to doing so will no doubt be Mame Diouf. In a squad with more than a few striking options, the forward signed from Manchester United in the winter of 2011/12 has consistently stood out as Slomka’s most dangerous and reliable goalscorer.
In a total of 39 Bundesliga appearances, Diouf has netted 18 times - most recently in the 2-1 home win over FC Schalke 04 on Matchday 3 - at a rate of a goal every 168 minutes. That equates to more than a goal every other game, a better strike rate than last season’s Bundesliga top scorer Stefan Kießling, former Germany international Jürgen Klinsmann and Schalke legend Klaus Fischer.
Jack of all trades
Diouf can also score all types of goals at any time. He has struck six with his head, four with his left foot and six with his right foot; three of those have come from the substitutes’ bench and six after counterattacking moves; and every one of his league goals have arrived from inside the penalty box, bar one - a stunning bicycle kick from distance against Schalke last season.
Six times he has put Hannover in the lead in games and on every occasion the Reds left the pitch as winners. He has also provided a not insignificant ten assists during his time in Lower Saxony, meaning direct involvement in 28 goals in his 38 appearances. He is yet to find a regular provider - Jan Schlaudraff and Didier Ya Konan have each laid on just three goals for him, the most of any team-mate - but that could well change this season if wing wizard Szabolcs Huszti stays fit. The Hungarian made nine assists last season and already has one in this.
Schlaudraff, Ya Konan and Artur Sobiech will share the goalscoring burden for the club this season, especially after the departure of Abdelloaue to VfB Stuttgart. However, it seems clear that the brunt of it will be borne by Diouf, and rightly so in view of his record.
His twelve league efforts were not quite enough to fire the club into a third successive European campaign for 2013/14, but Slomka can feel confident of an able challenge for the Europa League places if his Senegalese starlet is firing on all cylinders this season.
Ben Gladwell/Bernie Reeves