Hamsik-Led Napoli Are Good Enough to Win the Scudetto This Season
Despite the loss of Edinson Cavani, Napoli's squad has been strengthened considerably, and all the elements are in place for a serious Scudetto challenge.
Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of the Neapolitans' first Serie A outing of 2013-13 was that Bologna were dispatched with relative ease, yet the rejigged team obviously still has plenty of scope for improvement.
New manager Rafael Benitez's acquisition of Real Madrid trio Gonzalo Higuain, Jose Maria Callejon and Raul Albiol appears at this early stage to be a highly astute move, as does the recruitment of Pepe Reina to guard the Napoli net.
There were signs of rustiness and, at times, an understandable lack of fluidity in Napoli's play, considering the new tactical system and the four debutants in the starting side, but the individual talent on show got the job done against a limited, but respectable, Bologna outfit.
Facing the team who finished 13th last season, Benitez's side looked well-drilled in their defensive structures, with Reina's goal barely threatened, while going forward they took their chances clinically.
This ability to blast past a "lesser" side even when not playing at their best hints at a ruthless streak that will serve Napoli well when it comes to accumulating points in the Serie A race.
To challenge for the title, a team also needs at least one or two players from the very top drawer, and in Marek Hamsik they have a champion footballer who is currently hitting the peak of his powers.
The 26-year-old Slovak was irresistible against the Rossoblu, directing the majority of Napoli's attacking play with guile and precision, and scoring two superb goals to cap a dominant display.
This may well be the year that Hamsik goes from renowned talent to undisputed superstar.
Higuain, too, showed glimpses of what he can bring to the side; namely a cutting edge going forward. The Argentine was clearly not yet at his sharpest, but still proved a handful for the opposition defense with a grafting performance laced with flashes of instinctive attacking flair.
Even aside from these two focal points, one of Napoli's greatest strengths this campaign will be their ability to threaten from all over the pitch.
Can Napoli win the Scudetto this season?
From their roaring engine at the base of midfield, Gokhan Inler, to full-backs Christian Maggio and Juan Zuniga, to the men further forward in Jose Callejon and Goran Pandev, Napoli possess a host of players capable of creating chances and scoring goals.
There is strength in depth as well, with the likes of Lorenzo Insigne, Dries Mertens and Duvan Zapata all viable attacking options from the bench.
Italian champions Juventus have a winning mentality and a wonderful squad which only appears to have gotten stronger this season.
Nonetheless, the Bianconeri could find they have a worthy challenger for their Serie A crown in Benitez's southern heavyweights.
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