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2014-2015 Serie A preview: Napoli aiming for the title

Failing to qualify for the Champions League may just be the best thing to happen to Napoli -- if they can concentrate properly on chasing the Serie A scudetto, of course.

Dino Panato

Just a decade ago, Napoli were in ruins. They were in Serie C, fresh off bankruptcy and relegation, and were facing a long climb back to relevancy. Fast forward to today, and Napoli aren't just relevant, they're one of the powers of Italian football.

SSC Napoli:Naples, Campania Last season: 3rdCoach: Rafa Benítez

A number of top-five Serie A finishes and three Champions League appearances in the last four years have guaranteed Napoli are in the conversation when it comes to Europe's better teams, and manager Rafa Benitez is hoping to take his side to new heights during his second season in charge. With the turmoil atop the Serie A table and the talent on their roster, Napoli have to feel good about their chances to make some noise in the Scudetto chase.

This is a side that deserves respect, but it's not without questions. This summer hasn't quite gone to plan and has left many fans wondering if they'll have the side they feel they deserve this season. Even as things stand, though, this is a strong squad easily capable of contending for the Scudetto while playing exciting football. If it's properly reinforced like fans are hoping for, this team could get scary.

Key player

Marek Hamsik

Marekiaro is the man in Naples. He's been with Napoli for seven years, and in that time the Slovakian international has not just made the city his home, he's virtually become part of the city. He's the side's captain not only on merit, but out of sheer charisma and gravitas in and out of the locker room.

Hamsik is the beating heart of this Napoli side, and when he plays well, so does Napoli.

Fortunately for Napoli, Hamsik is a hell of a player. He has a rare eye for creativity in the run of play, and the passing nous to take advantage of it. He's also a fantastic goalscorer, attested by his goalscoring rate of a little better than a goal every four games for napoli, a very very good rate for a midfielder.

This season especially could be special when all is said and done, given that Hamsik suffered an injury- riddled campaign last year that left some wrongfully questioning his place in Rafa's side. You know he's eager to set that record straight, and seeing what he does to achieve that could be damn special.

Key departures and arrivals

In: Michu, Kalidou Koulibaly, Jonathan De Guzman

Out: Federico Fernandez, Valon Behrami, Eduardo Vargas, Pepe Reina, Anthony Reveillere, Pablo Armero

Reasons to watch

This is a talented, exciting side with big goals. Napoli don't want to just challenge for the Italian title; they want to unseat Juventus as the premier side in Italy -- particularly now that they've failed to reach the Champions League group stages, and can focus all their attention on the scudetto. Can they achieve that this season? Who knows, but watching them try is going to be one hell of a show.

Where they might finish

In the title push in Serie A until the bitter end. They could easily finish third in a tight race, but they could just as easily win the whole thing.