Napoli vs. Bologna, Preview: The Rafael Benítez era begins

Jamie McDonald

Rafael Benítez takes charge of his first competitive game as Napoli coach on Sunday, with the partenopei expecting to start the Serie A season with a win over Bologna.

Rafael Benítez's new-look Napoli start the Serie A campaign at home to Bologna on Sunday evening, in a game that they should be able to win. Having impressed with one of the best summer transfer campaigns of any team in Italy, this game offers the first competitive glimpse of how the partenopei will shape up in the post-Walter Mazzarri era.

More from our team blogs: Napoli blog The Siren's Song

With Bologna having lost a couple of key players this summer -- the most notable being striker Alberto Gilardino and midfielder Saphir Taïder -- just comfortably surviving relegation is the aim this season. However, they head to the San Paolo with fond memories from last season, when they won twice away at Napoli in the space of a December week, coming from behind on both occasions. Tactically very well drilled, the rossoblù could prove to be stubborn opponents.

For Napoli, several players are expected to be given their competitive debuts. Liverpool loanee goalkeeper Pepe Reina will almost definitely start between the sticks, while former Real Madrid centre-back Raúl Albiol will partner Paolo Cannavaro at the centre of the new four-man defence. Edinson Cavani replacement Gonzalo Higuaín will spearhead the attack, while wingers Dries Mertens and José Callejón could also break into the starting eleven.

Benítez's sole injury concern is winger Lorenzo Insigne, who has been absent from training with flu. Midfielder Blerim Džemaili and wing-back Pablo Armero both miss out through suspension. For Bologna, defenders Nicolò Cherubin and Frederik Sörensen are both out injured.

Napoli injuries and suspensions

Out: Blerim Džemaili, Pablo Armero (suspended). In doubt: Lorenzo Insigne.

Bologna injuries and suspensions

Out: Nicolò Cherubin, Frederik Sörensen (injured). In doubt: None.

Projected lineups

Napoli: Pepe Reina; Juan Zúñiga, Raúl Albiol, Paolo Cannavaro, Christian Maggio; Gökhan Inler, Valon Behrami; Dries Mertens, Marek Hamšík, Goran Pandev; Gonzalo Higuaín

Bologna: Gianluca Curci; Archimede Morleo, Cesare Natali, Mikael Antonsson, György Garics; Francesco Della Rocca, Rene Krhin; Lazaros Christodoulopoulos, Alessandro Diamanti, Panagiotis Kone; Rolando Bianchi

Match Date/Time: 8:45 p.m. local, 2:45 p.m. ET

Venue: Stadio San Paolo, Naples, Italy

TV: Sky Sport 1 HD Italia, Sky Calcio 1 (Italy)

Online: beIN Sport Play (U.S.)

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