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Napoli also say goodbye to the Scudetto. Why Rafa Benitez can't be satisfied
Azzurri's bid to claim the Serie A title received a severe jolt against Cagliari (1-1). Now Benitez's team is 10 points behind Juventus. “We're doing better than last year”, Rafa said. But at the same point the disadvantage was 2 points less
by Pasquale Notargiacomo
After the disappointing draw against Cagliari (1-1) on Saturday, Rafa Benitez said: “We're doing better than we did at the same point last year ... what else can we do?". In this way Napoli's coach tried to gloss over his team's frustration. Actually Azzurri's bid to claim the Serie A title received a severe jolt. Yesterday, in fact, thanks to their wins over Atalanta (4-1) and Catania (4-0), Juventus and Roma increased their advantage over Benitez's team. Now Napoli are 10 points adrift of the leaders (who won 9 games in a row) and 5 behind Garcia's team going into the winter break.


"We can't control what other teams are doing. Roma and Juve are doing really well," said Benitez. He took comfort by considering that Napoli have 3 points more than at the same point last year. However he forgot to add that then the gap from Juventus was 8 points (33 for Azzurri compared to 41 for Conte's team), two less than at this moment.


We don't believe that Napoli’s president, Aurelio De Laurentiis, could be really satisfied so far, also remembering his investements of last summer. The Azzurri sacrificed last year’s “capocannoniere”, Uruguayan star Edinson Cavani, but reinvested all the €64,5M they got from Paris Saint Germain (and more), putting up a team to be watched out for both in the Serie A and the Champions League.


Among all the signing of Gonzalo Higuain was the most expensive (€37M). So far Napoli have been (undeservedly) eliminated from Champions League and they will play Europa League whom they can't snub and where they will now meet Swansea. Probably after the draw with Cagliari, Azzurri can also say goodbye to the Scudetto (they won their last title in 1990).


It doesnt' seem to be a glorious path up until now. Surely the brightest spot concerns just Higuain. El Pipita scored against Cagliari his 9th goal in Serie A and the 13th in the season, considering the four he made in Champions League to Borussia Dortmund, Marseille (2) and Arsenal. He integrated very well in the team and he's succeeding in the challenge of replacing Cavani.


On the other hand, Marek Hamsik, considered the leader of the team, is facing a difficult moment, due to injuries. Until now Slovak captain (who missed 5 Serie A games) hasn’t been able to be decisive as usual. Also, another talented player, Camilo Zuniga is experiencing something similar: he missed 13 matches. So Napoli has paid so far for  their missed contribution, whilst last year their personality often made a difference. Benitez looks for new players from January's transfer window to reinforce the weak points of the team.


The defence needs more experienced players, while in the midfield Behrami can't do everything and Inler is too often inconsistent. Rafa can't admit more false steps. After winning the first duel against his predecessor, Walter Mazzarri (defeating his new team, Inter, 4-2) Napoli's coach must try to mantain this prevalence also on the final table of the league. 



The results of the 17th matchday:

Livorno - Udinese 1-2

Cagliari - Napoli 1-1

Bologna - Genoa 1-0

Verona - Lazio 4 - 1

Atalanta - Juventus 1-4

Roma - Catania 4-0

Sampdoria - Parma 1-1

Sassuolo - Fiorentina 0-1

Torino - Chievo 4-1

Inter - Milan 1-0 (Highlights)

Monday, December 23 rd, 2013
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