Spanish tactician will look to build on success over recent years.
Our “Serie A Six to Watch” series continues with Napoli, with new boss Rafa Benitez looking to guide them to success at both home and abroad.
The Neapolitan faithful are widely regarded as one of the most passionate groups of supporters in world football. The San Paolo has served to be a cauldron for opposing sides over the years, and with recent success the tifosi are growing more expectant each year.
Having dazzled in Europe two years ago, they followed it up with long-awaited silverware after clinching the Coppa Italia in 2012 to end a 22-year wait for a trophy.
Walter Mazzarri continued the club’s ascent last year with a second-placed finish in Serie A, and with it came the belief that with a few additions they could maintain a challenge for the Scudetto across an entire season in the near future.
Mazzarri has since departed for Inter, but has been replaced by former Liverpool and Chelsea boss Benitez who will look to bring his wealth of experience to the club coupled with his winning mentality.
The Spaniard arguably has a point to prove on his return to Italy despite denying the suggestion, but he will remember the disappointment of leaving Inter after just a few months.
With prolific striker Edinson Cavani sold to Paris Saint-Germain in a €63m deal, owner Aurelio De Laurentiis has delivered on his promise to significantly re-invest in the squad and continues to assemble an impressive squad.
The marquee signing is undoubtedly Gonzalo Higuain, who was given a hero’s welcome on his arrival in Italy and will be thrilled at the prospect of becoming a fans favourite and writing his name into the club’s history books alongside another famous Argentinian.
Nevertheless, along with the acquisitions of Pepe Reina, Raul Albiol, Dries Mertens and the expected emergence of talented youngster Lorenzo Insigne this season, it is undoubtedly an exciting time in Naples.
Benitez has consistently delivered in Europe throughout his managerial career, winning the Europa League with Chelsea as recently as last season. As a result, the Partenopei can be hopeful of a decent run in the Champions League if the draw is kind, but will ultimately look at the Scudetto as their primary target.
Their work in the transfer market is said to be on-going, and admittedly they do need to improve in certain areas in order to become a real force in Europe.
Critics suggest that the defence still needs strengthening, but considering that only champions Juventus had a better defensive record last season, the addition of exciting attacking talents could result in a significant year this season.
Probable line-up this season (4-2-3-1):