Napoli: Serie A 2013/14 Preview

Napoli Under Rafa Benitez      

While Napoli have had a strong summer in the transfer market, their lack of ability to shore up a frail defence remains worrisome. Add that to the loss of Edinson Cavani and questions remain about whether the partenopei will be able to mount a true title challenge this season.

Cavani says good bye
The last time Napoli made the Champions League, a lack of squad depth caused their league form to suffer, and they could only finish sixth in Serie A. Some smart moves on the transfer market, and a manager less adverse to using youth and reserve players, should help combat that problem.

Last Season

They finished second in Serie A. 29 league goals for Edinson Cavani. A place in this season's Champions League. All in all, it was very nearly a Napoli supporter's dream season.

Who's Gone?

Edinson Cavani
El Matador scored 38 goals in all competitions last season. 29 of those were in the league, the most in Serie A. And the forward was Napoli's best defender for the past two seasons. But he's gone to Paris Saint-Germain and yet Napoli aren't panicking. Why? €64m helps.

Hugo Campagnaro
Napoli let their best centre back go on a free transfer and they are yet to replace him.

Morgan De Sanctis
Morgan is an "unconventional" goalkeeper. During the matches in which teams actually bothered to attack, there was usually one moment of pure terror brought on by De Sanctis leaving his area or falling asleep. Now he's AS Roma's worry, but the fun will be missed.

Rafa Benitez
Who's In?

Rafa Benítez
Walter Mazzarri finally capitulated, accepting an invitation from Inter Milan to drag them up from the depths of despair. But is Benítez really up to the task? Napoli will want a long Coppa Italia run, advancement in the Champions League and a scudetto challenge. Sure, Rafa won that one significant trophy once with Inter, but, it's been awhile.

Gonzalo Higuain
Napoli's most significant purchase of the season to replace Cavani. While Higuaín may be a great striker, he still stands in the shadow of Cavani, and every fan will be comparing his performances to that of the Uruguayan. Should Higuaín manage to achieve a mind-meld with Marek Hamsik and thus score 20 goals this season, Napoli supporters might be satisfied.

José Callejón
Brought in from Real Madrid to play out wide in Rafa's band of three, Callejón didn't impress much in preseason. But with fights on all three fronts this season, Napoli will do well to have decent depth - and judging from Rafa's selections over the summer, it may not be the Spaniard that's on the bench.

Pepe Reina
Raúl Albiol
Napoli must've got a discount on flights from Madrid to Naples because they raided the Real reserves this transfer window. Quality defender.

Dries Mertens
The Belgian winger comes to Napoli from PSV, where he scored 37 goals in 62 appearances over two seasons. Of course, that's in the Eredivisie, so cut those goals by half and that might approximate what will be seen from Mertens this season.

Pepe Reina
The Spanish keeper comes on loan from Liverpool to replace De Sanctis in what is an upgrade.

Keep An Eye On

Rafa Benítez
While Rafa may have won that one significant trophy while at Liverpool, that seems in the distant past now. His time at Inter could be classified as a failure and he certainly didn't do wonders with a talented Chelsea squad last season. He's got to start off hot - beating the low-midtable sides in the early weeks, getting at least a point against AC Milan at the San Siro and performing well in the UCL group stages - if he expects to stick around.

Predicted Finish

With so many changes made to this Napoli side, it's tough to predict if they'll be able to mount a scudetto challenge this season. On paper they look strong, with the signings of the talented Higuaín and Mertens, as well as the growing talent of Lorenzo Insigne and Marek Hamsik's ability to orchestrate the side. But the loss of Cavani will be a significant one and Milan and Juventus should leave them behind.

Gonzalo Higuain