Picking a Napoli Lineup Led by Gonzalo Higuain

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Picking a Napoli Lineup Led by Gonzalo Higuain
Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Argentine No. 9 Gonzalo Higuain has arrived at Napoli amid great fanfare.

The move may have surprised many, but as James Horncastle explains, Napoli holds a special lure for Argentinian players:

"Pipita" is the biggest signing so far of Napoli's active transfer window. With a new coach at the helm, there are sure to be quite a few changes made to a formation that did exceptionally well to finish second behind Juventus in last year's Scudetto race, but from which even more will be expected this time around.

The loss of star man Edinson Cavani to PSG was no doubt a blow, but if anything, the Partenopei squad already looks stronger than last season with the recruitment of Higuain, Pepe Reina (loan), Jose Callejon, Raul Albiol, Dries Mertens and Rafael Cabral.

Eccentric owner Aurelio De Laurentiis is not happy yet, however, and has reportedly set his sights on Porto starlet Jackson Martinez, who would greatly strengthen Napoli's attacking stocks even further should the Portuguese club be willing to let him go.

How will incoming manager Rafael Benitez shape the promising squad at his disposal into a team that can challenge Juventus for the title and make a splash in the Champions League?

Benitez is famously very fond of the 4-2-3-1 formation, and that is the path he is likely to take in season 2013/14.

Pepe Reina should be given the nod over young gun Rafael as chief custodian.

Denis Doyle/Getty Images
Raul Albiol takes a breather

Raul Albiol will slot in beside Paolo Cannavaro in the center of defense, while Christian Maggio and Juan Zuniga fill the right and left full-back roles, respectively. Pablo Armero could be used as a replacement on the left should countryman Zuniga depart, or even on the right if the more attack-minded Maggio is not able to handle his duties to Benitez's liking.

Gokhan Inler and Valon Behrami have already shown they are capable of anchoring the midfield with aplomb.

The advanced line of three in front of them would look particularly threatening with Callejon on the right, Marek Hamsik through the middle and Lorenzo Insigne on the left. New boy Mertens may press the Italian for a starting berth.

Up top sits Higuain, who can play the role of target man but is an intelligent mover as well, and he will be sure to encourage the involvement of his midfielders in Napoli's attacking raids as he drops deep or wide to offer an outlet. 

Obviously, this picture could change before the end of the transfer window, and there are a number of candidates for starting spots in most positions around the pitch.

Benitez is spoiled for choice, and that bodes well for Napoli.

Possible Napoli starting XI for season 2013/14: (4-2-3-1) Reina, Maggio, Cannavaro, Albiol, Zuniga, Behrami, Inler, Callejon, Hamsik, Insigne, Higuain.

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